Artem Uss is in Russia, and it’s not like he’s keeping quiet about it. After he escaped house arrest near Milan (after breaking his ankle bracelet) and disappeared with the aid of unidentified operatives, the Russian fugitive announced his return to State-owned Ria Novosti.
- “I am in Russia! During these particularly dramatic days, strong and reliable people were with me. Thanks to them,” he told the outlet.
- He stressed how he initially believed in the “impartiality of the Italian court” but then found its verdict “politically biased” and “willing to bend” under United States pressure. “My return to the homeland, even in such a ‘non-standard’ way, is a victory.”
- His father, the governor of Russia’s Krasnoyarsk region, also confirmed his return. “I’ve already talked to my son. He’s made it to Russia. If he wants to tell others how he made it, he can do it himself,” he told Baza.
A step back. Mr Uss was arrested in Milan Malpensa airport in October under an international arrest warrant and detained by local authorities, who then accepted the US’ extradition request.
- Washington had accused the Russian citizen of smuggling oil from Venezuela to China and Russia, evasion of sanctions and bank fraud, smuggling military technology from the US to Russia and money laundering.
- A Milan court confirmed the first two claims and rejected the other two. It then mandated a house arrest, as he appealed against extradition to the US and asked the Italian court to extradite him to Russia.
- Shortly after his arrest, authorities in Moscow put together a money-laundering case against him and secured a court order for his extradition.
Was Moscow involved? The possibility is becoming harder to disprove, especially in light of Mr Uss’ latest words and considering that the Kremlin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov had announced that the Russian diplomatic missions would “do their best to protect [his] interests” after his arrest.
- His wife, Maria Yagodina, flew back to Russia shortly after Mr Uss was detained. She could have contacted authorities there.
- Also, the fugitive’s escape from house arrest was meticulously planned – likely involving several people and a high degree of coordination –, possibly by Russian intelligence.