Jailed Kremlin Adviser a Headache for Swiss as Putin Meets Biden
(Bloomberg) -- When Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin meet in Geneva on Wednesday, the summit’s Swiss hosts may find themselves caught in a dilemma.
A Russian IT specialist with ties to the Kremlin is sitting in jail in Switzerland subject to a U.S. extradition request, causing a political headache for the authorities.
Swiss courts have twice rejected appeals to free Vladislav Klyushin, who works with the Kremlin and Russian government ministries, after he was detained in March on a petition from U.S. federal prosecutors investigating alleged insider trading. His lawyer called the U.S. accusations a “pretext” for extradition.
“My client considers this a politically motivated prosecution,” said Oliver Ciric, the lawyer. Klyushin’s work on IT solutions for Russian ministries means “he’s been acquiring confidential information that is of interest to U.S. intelligence,” Ciric said.
The case risks becoming an irritant at the Putin-Biden meeting on June 16, which has drawn comparisons in Switzerland to the 1985 summit in Geneva between Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to discuss nuclear disarmament between the Cold War rivals.
The Russian embassy in Switzerland has been “actively involved for several months” in Klyushin’s defense, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told an interviewer Thursday.
Prosecutors in Massachussetts accuse Klyushin of insider trading involving tens of millions of dollars with several accomplices, said a spokeswoman for the Swiss Federal Department of Justice. A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice’s Massachussetts office declined to comment.
Ciric said his client denies involvement.
Records of Russian state contracts show Klyushin’s M13 company provided a media-monitoring system called Katyusha to the Defense Ministry. It also provided services to the National Guard, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Justice Ministry, and Moscow city government.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Vedomosti newspaper in 2016 that the presidential administration had also begun using the Katyusha service to monitor social media. Peskov didn’t respond to a request to comment on Klyushin’s arrest and whether the Kremlin still uses the system.
Russia has a constitutional ban on extraditing citizens to face trial abroad. It has clashed repeatedly with U.S. authorities over the seizure and extradition of Russians in third countries, including convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, a pilot serving a 20-year sentence for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine.
Klyushin was arrested on March 19 as he flew into Sion Airport in western Switzerland with his family. On April 19, the U.S. Embassy in Bern formally requested his extradition.
A court decision on that request is pending and Klyushin would be released if it’s rejected.
Switzerland has previously sent former FIFA soccer officials, bankers and others wanted by American authorities to face trial under its extradition treaty with the U.S. However, the underlying charges in any request must also be considered a crime in Switzerland for Swiss authorities to comply.
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