Cyprus Mail

Moscow says 60 Russian ‘hostages’ held in U.S. as prisoner swap talk swirls

file photo: bout from russia is escorted by a member of the special police unit as he arrives at a criminal court in bangkok
Earlier this month, the US released convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in a prisoner swap for Brittney Griner

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin said that more than 60 Russian “hostages” were serving prison sentences in the United States, the result of what he called an illegal global hunt for Russians by U.S. intelligence services.

Vershinin’s remarks, made in an interview with Russia’s state-owned news agency RIA published on Tuesday, come as Washington is seeking a new prisoner swap with Moscow amid speculation about which captives Russia may want to be freed in such a deal.

Vershinin did not touch on the possible scope of such an exchange but said:

“The total number of Russian citizens (in U.S. jails), who have been in effect taken hostage, exceeds 60.”

He provided no evidence that the Russians’ sentences were politically motivated or otherwise unfair, but cited general anti-Russian feeling in the United States and said that was his view.

Earlier this month, the United States released convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who had been serving a 25-year sentence, in a prisoner swap for Brittney Griner, an American basketball star jailed in Russia for drug offences.

U.S. media reported that Russia had refused to include Paul Whelan, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran convicted of espionage in 2020, in the same exchange.

Whelan denies wrongdoing and the United States has said it is actively engaged in efforts to try to free him.

According to U.S. media reports, Russia had demanded the release of Vadim Krasikov, who was convicted of the 2019 murder of a Chechen dissident in Berlin, in exchange for Whelan.

German authorities reportedly refused to participate in such a swap.

Related Posts

Ukrainians face homelessness, disease as floodwaters crest from destroyed dam

EU Commission allocates $1.3bn to tackle mental health ‘silent epidemic’

Pope Francis in hospital for second abdominal surgery in two years

State of emergency imposed in Russia-controlled parts of Kherson

Gunman shoots two dead, wounds five others at Virginia high school graduation

Tens of thousands at risk from flooding after Ukraine dam collapse