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Who Might Be Half Of A U.S.-Russia Prisoner Trade? 


As the USA and Russia put together to debate a prisoner swap simply days after Moscow sentenced a U.S. ladies’s basketball star to 9 years in jail on drug smuggling expenses, a lot stays unclear about who might be freed.

Talking individually at an Asia convention in Cambodia on August 5, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart, Overseas Minister Sergei Lavrov, confirmed that they had been able to pursue swap talks although they gave no additional particulars.

Late final month, Blinken mentioned the USA had made a “substantial provide” to Russia for the discharge of basketball participant Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who’s serving a 16-year jail sentence in Russia on espionage expenses that he denies.

The USA claims that the 2 jailed Individuals are political pawns being utilized by Moscow amid a deteriorating bilateral relationship.

U.S. media reported final week that the White Home had provided to swap Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who’s serving a 25-year sentence, for the 2 Individuals. Moscow has been searching for Bout’s launch for years.

Nonetheless, Russia holds at the very least two different U.S. people on controversial grounds and consultants don’t exclude a swap involving extra prisoners.

The issue for the Kremlin might lie in deciding whom to decide on among the many dozens of Russian people serving time in U.S. jails in reference to critical crimes.

Over the previous decade, the USA has sentenced dozens of Russian people to jail phrases on money-laundering, hacking, and ransomware expenses.

A number of the hackers are excessive profile people of curiosity to the Kremlin and might be a part of a swap, mentioned Arkady Bukh, a U.S.-based protection lawyer who represents Russian-speaking shoppers.

A lot of them had been arrested in third international locations on U.S. warrants and later extradited to the USA, prompting Moscow to accuse Washington of “searching” its residents all over the world.

The USA has claimed that Russia doesn’t take motion in opposition to its personal residents committing cybercrimes in opposition to overseas international locations.

Russia has filed competing extradition requests to dam their residents from falling into the fingers of the USA although it has misplaced usually.

The tough sentences handed down by Russian courts to U.S. residents for minor crimes, similar to possession of marijuana, could also be retribution by Moscow for these arrests.

Russia’s courts usually are not unbiased with the state calling the pictures on high-profile instances, consultants say.

Moscow and Washington have carried out swaps involving diplomats and spies over the a long time, however exchanges of people convicted of legal exercise is uncommon, Bukh mentioned.

Earlier this yr, the Biden administration agreed to swap Konstantin Yaroshenko, a pilot from Russia who was sentenced in 2011 to twenty years in jail for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the USA, for Trevor Reed, a former U.S. Marine who was imprisoned in Russia for almost three years on expenses of assaulting two law enforcement officials.

Beneath is an inventory of Russian and U.S. people who might be concerned in one other potential prisoner swap.

Victor Bout

Russian arms trader Viktor Bout (file photo)

Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout (file photograph)

Viktor Bout, 55, is serving a 25-year sentence in the USA for conspiring to promote weapons to a Colombian terrorist group. The U.S. accused Bout, a pilot, of working a global arms-trafficking community that equipped a wide-range of shoppers from the Taliban to Liberian warlord Charles Taylor.

He was arrested in Thailand in 2008 on the behest of the USA and convicted by a U.S. court docket in 2011. Russian authorities complained that he was arrested illegally by U.S. brokers in Thailand and fought to have him extradited again dwelling. A former Soviet army officer, Bout had served in Angola, the place he’s alleged to have labored for the KGB.

Roman Seleznyov

An undated photo of Roman Seleznyov (center) with his family.

An undated photograph of Roman Seleznyov (heart) together with his household.

Roman Seleznyov, the son of Valery Seleznyov — a member of Russia’s decrease home of parliament and an outspoken critic of U.S. insurance policies — is serving a 27-year sentence for varied cybercrimes, together with promoting stolen U.S. bank card knowledge. Seleznyov, 38, was arrested by U.S. authorities in 2014 at an airport within the Maldives and shortly taken to the U.S. territory of Guam, sparking accusations by Moscow that he was kidnapped.

U.S. investigators uncovered Seleznyov’s on-line actions within the late 2000s and requested Russia’s Federal Safety Service (FSB) for assist. Seleznyov’s on-line footprint quickly disappeared, main U.S. investigators to imagine Russia was defending him. Seleznyov (listed as Roman V. Seleznev in U.S. court docket papers) obtained one of many harshest sentences ever handed all the way down to a Russian hacker as a result of he selected to combat his case regardless of a preponderance of proof moderately than cooperate.

Vladislav Klyushin

Vladislav Klyushin, 41, was arrested in Switzerland on March 21, 2021, on expenses of stealing insider data and utilizing it to make a fortune. He was extradited to the USA on December 18. Klyushin is accused of being a part of a bunch that hacked into networks to steal delicate company knowledge and use the knowledge to commerce shares.

The group is assumed to have made a complete of $82 million over a two-year interval from 2018 to 2020. The opposite members of the group stay at giant. One among them is a former officer within the Russian Foremost Intelligence Directorate, often called the GRU, who was beforehand charged in July 2018 for his alleged position in a Russian effort to meddle within the 2016 U.S. elections.

Klyushin owned M-13, a Russian firm that gives media-monitoring and cybersecurity providers, and is believed to have Kremlin ties. His firm offered IT options that had been utilized by the Russian president, federal ministries and departments in addition to regional state government our bodies.

Aleksandr Vinnik

Aleksandr Vinnik (file photo)

Aleksandr Vinnik (file photograph)

Aleksandr Vinnik, 43, who’s also referred to as Mr. Bitcoin, was extradited to the USA on August 5 to face money-laundering expenses. Vinnik allegedly owned and operated BTC-e, one of many world’s largest digital-currency exchanges. The USA claims that BTC-e was used extensively by cybercriminals worldwide to launder cash as a result of it didn’t require customers to validate their identification, obscured and anonymized transactions and sources of funds, and lacked any due diligence processes.

Vinnik was arrested on a U.S. warrant in 2017 on a Greek seashore whereas vacationing together with his household. Nonetheless, he was initially extradited to France to face separate money-laundering expenses and sentenced to 5 years in jail. He was launched from a French jail on August 4 however instantly despatched again to Greece, which had requested his return so it may execute the unique U.S. warrant. If convicted by a U.S. court docket, Vinnik faces as much as 20 years in jail.

The timing of Vinnik’s switch to the USA coincided with the sentencing of Griner, giving rise to hypothesis he could also be utilized in a potential prisoner swap.

Denis Dubnikov

Denis Dubnikov, 29, was detained final yr within the Netherlands on the request of the USA for allegedly laundering cryptocurrency tied to a infamous ransomware gang and will quickly be extradited. Dubnikov flew to Mexico in November for a trip and was denied entry. As an alternative of being placed on a airplane again to Russia, he was despatched to the Netherlands, the place he was detained upon arrival. The Netherlands has traditionally authorised extraditions to the USA.

Dubnikov, who co-owns small crypto-exchanges, allegedly obtained a whole lot of hundreds of {dollars}’ price of digital foreign money from Ryuk, a ransomware gang believed to have extracted tens of hundreds of thousands in ransoms, together with from U.S. victims. Dubnikov denied the costs, saying on the time by means of his lawyer that he didn’t know the supply of the cash that the USA alleges got here from ransomware funds.

Dubnikov’s arrest has been referred to as considered one of U.S. regulation enforcement’s first potential blows to the Ryuk gang, which is suspected of being behind a rash of cyberattacks on U.S. health-care organizations. The Wall Road Journal mentioned that Ryuk took in additional than $100 million in ransom funds final yr.

Brittney Griner

U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner sits inside a defendants' while her sentence is read out in court on August 4.

U.S. basketball participant Brittney Griner sits inside a defendants’ whereas her sentence is learn out in court docket on August 4.

Brittney Griner, 31, was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Worldwide Airport in in February for possessing vape cartridges containing hashish oil, which is illegitimate in Russia. Griner, a star for the Phoenix Mercury in the USA, performs for a basketball crew in Russia throughout the low season of the Ladies’s Nationwide Basketball Affiliation (WNBA). She pleaded responsible to possessing the cartridges however claimed she didn’t intend to violate Russian regulation. Her nine-year sentence was not excessive by Russian requirements, consultants have mentioned.

Paul Whelan

Paul Whelan (file photo)

Paul Whelan (file photograph)

Paul Whelan, 52, a Michigan-based company safety government, was arrested in December 2018 on espionage expenses whereas visiting Moscow for a good friend’s marriage ceremony. Russia claimed Whelan was caught with a pc flash drive containing categorised data. Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian, and Irish citizenship, mentioned he was arrange in a sting operation and had thought the drive, given to him by a Russian acquaintance, contained trip pictures. In June 2020, he was discovered responsible and sentenced to 16 years of “arduous labor” in a Russian jail. The U.S. authorities mentioned Russia produced no proof to show Whelan’s guilt throughout a trial that it referred to as a mockery of justice.

David Barnes

David Barnes, 65, a Texas resident, was arrested by Russian authorities in Moscow in January 2022 on expenses of abusing his youngsters in the USA. Barnes traveled to Moscow in December 2021 to win the correct to both see his youngsters or deliver them again dwelling. Barnes ex-wife, Svetlana Koptyaeva, fled to Russia with the youngsters in 2019 amid divorce and custody proceedings.

A Texas court docket in 2020 awarded Barnes custody of the youngsters and Koptyaeva is now wished by the USA on expenses of interfering with youngster custody. Koptyaeva had accused Barnes of kid abuse however a 2018 investigation by the Division of Household and Protecting Companies didn’t discover ample proof to assist such a conclusion and closed the case with out submitting any expenses.

Marc Fogel

Marc Fogel, a 60-year-old English trainer, was arrested in an airport in Moscow in 2021 for carrying about half an oz of medical marijuana. He was sentenced to 14 years in a penal colony after prosecutors claimed he supposed to promote the medication to his college students.

Fogel had been educating for almost a decade on the Anglo-American Faculty in Moscow, a prestigious fee-paying main faculty that had been established by the U.S., Canadian and British embassies. Fogel, who had surgical procedures on his again, shoulder, and knee, mentioned he started to make use of medical marijuana whereas in the USA on summer time break to deal with ache and tried to deliver a few of it again to Russia, the place it’s unlawful.

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