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Cocaine case defendants slam arrest as provocation

March 12, 16:43 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The Foreign Ministry earlier reported that Russia and Argentina conducted a joint sting operation to bust a delivery channel of a large batch of narcotics (over 360 kilos) to Europe

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Vladimir Kalmykov and Ishtimir Khudzhamov

Vladimir Kalmykov and Ishtimir Khudzhamov

© Sergei Savostianov/TASS

MOSCOW, March 12. /TASS/. Defendants in the case concerning the smuggling of cocaine from Argentina to Russia believe their arrest to be a provocation, Dmitry Minenko, the defense attorney for Ishtimir Khudzhamov, said at the Moscow City Court, where appeal against his client’s arrest is being considered.

"In our appeal we have pointed out that officers from the Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service (FSB) deliberately created conditions under which it became possible for the defendants to plan to commit the crime they are charged with," Minenko said. The defense attorney for another defendant in the case, Vladimir Kalmykov, agreed, saying that the entire case was a provocation. He also asked the court to put his client under house arrest instead of keeping him in a pre-trial detention center.

Defendants in the case concerning the smuggling of cocaine from Argentina to Russia cooperated with investigators in order to bait the crime mastermind, Andrei Kovalchuk, back to Russia, defendant Ishtimir Khudzhamov told the Moscow City Court.

"After the FSB [Federal Security Service] officers detained us, we participated in all the investigative activities aimed at making Kovalchuk come to Moscow so that law enforcers could apprehend him," he said.

"We were instructed to bring 12 suitcases to an address in Neopalimovsky pereulok, where the Russian Foreign ministry’s consular department is located," he added.

During court hearings, it became known that another one of the case defendants, Vladimir Kalmykov, was a former submariner and a United Russia party member.

Cocaine smuggling case

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said earlier that Russian and Argentine law enforcement agencies had carried out a joint operation to prevent the smuggling of a large shipment of cocaine (over 360 kilos) to Europe. The Foreign Ministry noted that the drug shipment found on the premises of the Russian embassy in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires belonged to the embassy’s technical staff member whose period of work at the diplomatic mission had ended by then.

A criminal case in this connection was launched in November 2017. In December, three suspects - Ishtimir Khudzhamov, Ali Abyanov and Vladimir Kalmykov - were arrested. The alleged mastermind, Andrei Kovalchuk, was later arrested in Germany at Russia’s request. Another two suspects were apprehended in Argentina.

Khudzhamov told the court that they had thought Kovalchuk to be an intelligence officer. "Kovalchuk presented himself to us as an intelligence officer and a Foreign Ministry staff member, he claimed to be a colonel. We did not think it was anything criminal, let alone drug trafficking. We thought we were transporting coffee," he said.

The case is being investigated by the Russian Interior Ministry’s investigative department.

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