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US authorities agree to urgent medical examination of Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko

February 17, 2014, 22:37 UTC+3 MOSCOW
In September 2011, a U.S court sentenced Yaroshenko to 20 years in prison for having been allegedly involved in a criminal ring organised for smuggling a large shipment of cocaine
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© ITAR-TASS/Valery Matytsin

MOSCOW, February 17, 22:19 /ITAR-TASS/. The American authorities have agreed to allow an urgent medical examination of Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who has been sentenced in the United States to a long prison on drug smuggling charges.

“The condition of Russian citizen Yaroshenko, who was unfairly sentenced in the United States to a long prison term, remains a matter of serious concern,” the Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights, democracy and the rule of law Konstantin Dolgov said on Monday, February 15.

“The joint efforts of Russian diplomats and American lawyer Alexei Tarasov, who confirmed after a meeting with our compatriot in prison that he [Yaroshenko] needed urgent medical attention, helped secure the American authorities’ consent to an urgent medical examination,” Dolgov said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian Consulate General in New York are now in contact with the U.S. Department of State and Department of Justice, negotiating a possible visit to Yaroshenko by Russian representatives, including the Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, senior diplomats from the Russian Embassy in Washington and the Russian Consulate General in New York, as well as competent doctors.

“We hope that our specialists will be able to conduct full examination of the Russian citizen unhindered, preferably together with American medics, and prescribe necessary treatment to him,” Dolgov said.

“We state once again that we will not tolerate the situation where Yaroshenko’s life has been put in danger with the connivance of the prison administration and actual overlook on the part of the federal agencies which bear full responsibility for his health. We expect the American side to be guided by humane considerations in the first place and comply with the pertinent international obligations,” the diplomat said.

Yaroshenko has been suffering from heart problems over the past two weeks and trying unsuccessfully to get medical attention, his lawyer Tarasov said.

“As the American practice requires, he has repeatedly reported his health problems to the prison administration, unsuccessfully trying to get their permission for urgent medical aid,” the lawyer told ITAR-TASS.

He learnt from Yaroshenko’s relatives that “the assertions by the administration of the Fort Dix prison [in New Jersey where the pilot is serving his term] that the Russian inmate was allegedly ignoring the rules failing to report his health problems are wrong.”

“Konstantin, whose health deteriorated dramatically after tortures and humiliating treatment during the arrest, has been seeking urgent and qualified medical aid for at least the last two weeks. He has repeatedly filed written petitions about a sharp deterioration of health. But the prison administration did not respond,” the lawyer said.

This was confirmed to him by Yaroshenko’s mother and wife.

“Konstantin Yaroshenko has burning pains in the heart, his blood pressure is way up and he is running a fever. These are clear signs of pre-infarction angina, as a minimum,” Tarasov said.

Last week, the prison administration denied urgent medical aid to Yaroshenko, 45. His cell block superintendant said Yaroshenko had not told him of any deterioration of his health. When told that the Russian pilot simply could not get up from his cot, the official said if he had managed to call the lawyer, he therefore could go and tell him about his health problems.

In September 2011, a U.S court sentenced Yaroshenko to 20 years in prison for having been allegedly involved in a criminal ring organised for smuggling a large shipment of cocaine. He was detained by the U.S. authorities in Liberia and then taken to the United States. Moscow believes that these charges are doubtful.

Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN) chief Viktor Ivanov said that his Service had asked the U.S. to provide additional information on the case as only “a brief memo” was given to the Russian drug police, notifying them that Yaroshenko was suspected of drug trafficking in the U.S.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights, democracy and the rule of law Konstantin Dolgov said the New York court of appeals’ refusal to review the guilty verdict to Yaroshenko, was “inhuman, illogical and unacceptable”.

The Russian Foreign Ministry constantly monitors the situation concerning Yaroshenko and another Russian citizen Viktor Bout who has also been sentenced to a long prison term in the U.S.

“Not a meeting with our American colleagues at any level, including my regular contacts with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, passes without our raising the question of Bout and Yaroshenko,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier.

He believes that their cases have been artificially politicised. “Nevertheless, lawyers are working. Naturally, we rely on the wishes of Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko themselves. The latter said he would not appeal further to higher-tier instances and asked for a return to Russia under the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons to serve his term at home,” the minister said, adding that both Russia and the U.S. were parties to the Convention.

“This mechanism can be used only when all stages of the appealing processes have been passed. Konstantin Yaroshenko has refused to appeal further and therefore he falls under this Convention. Viktor Bout has not made such a decision yet with his lawyers and this has to be decided by him and his family with whom we stay in touch,” Lavrov said.

He said Russian consulate officials regularly visited Bout and Yaroshenko in U.S. prisons. “There were complaints about the conditions of their imprisonment from the very beginning: Viktor Bout was put in the prison where dangerous special criminals are held. We are pressing - and the first results have already been achieved - for providing them with better conditions,” the minister said.

“We will keep working on this,” he noted.

“As for Konstantin Yaroshenko, he was basically snatched out of Liberia by deception and, just like Viktor Bout, taken to the U.S.,” Lavrov said.

He admitted that “they [American authorities] have so far failed to listen to our appeals to adhere to legal obligations. Many of our citizens have found themselves in similar situations, but Bout and Yaroshenko are the best known examples. They were sentenced to 25 years and life term for an intention to do something, and these intentions were beaten out of them by deception. As many American experts say, the verdicts are based on rather doubtful evidence.”

Bout, found guilty in November 2010 of arms smuggling conspiracy, has been sentenced by a New York court to 25 years in prison.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has advised Russians who may have problems with the American law to refrain from travelling to countries that have extradition agreements with the United States.

More than 120 countries have extradition agreements with the United States, including all of the EU and Latin American countries, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

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