MOSCOW, June 15. /TASS/. Russia is ready to hand over US citizens, convicted in Russia, via the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons mechanism; however, US citizen Paul Whelan, convicted in Russia for espionage is not among them, says Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.
"We can resolve the situation with our compatriots serving insane prison terms in the US literally 'in a jiffy.' If the Americans agree to engage the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons mechanism, we are ready to reciprocally hand over their citizens," he said in an interview. "There were some discussions previously as to whom exactly we could have meant, but Mr. Whelan was not in the lists and mentions we’ve made; this question is not applicable now, he is not being considered in this context."
According to Ryabkov, Washington is aware of this position.
"We keep telling this to the Americans, and this topic emerged once again now ahead of the [Russia-US] summit. It’s not up to me to predict in what key this meeting will take place, but the Americans are well aware of the position that we defend and promote," he said.
The diplomat noted that Whelan’s lawyer’s periodic statements, apparently, seek to "create a certain political pressure."
"This helps neither [Whelan’s] situation, nor the resolution of this extremely difficult situation, extremely pressing, with the so-called humanitarian cases. After all, there is certain experience in this field, and it is improper to escalate, to raise hype, especially in the situation when his guilt has been proven, and he is serving his term over a grievous charge - for espionage. This does not increase his chances," Ryabkov said.
Whelan, a citizen of the US, the UK, Canada and Ireland, was apprehended by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) during an espionage operation on December 2018. The Moscow City Court sentenced him to 16 years in prison.