Who let the Russian out? “A former officer of the Italian Army’s special forces, who has been living in Moscow for more than six years,” was supposedly involved in the exfiltration of Artem Uss, a wanted Russian tycoon and son of the governor of Krasnoyarsk who escaped house arrest near Milan and resurfaced in Russia on Tuesday.
- This reconstruction – which remains to be verified, in a context in which disinformation is a central element – was offered by VChK-OGPU. This Russian Telegram channel has proven excellent relations with the Kremlin’s intelligence in these months of war.
The Italian job. “It’s clear that the special services did not fail to help,” explained the author(s), but it was the former Italian soldier who “organised the escape.” The unnamed Italian officer, “after being discharged from the army, owned a security company in Rome, then moved to Russia and married a Russian woman.”
- The source gives other details of the mission, which supposedly entailed Croatian citizens and drivers with Croatian number plates. Mr Uss would have had a Russian passport with a different surname and would have passed through Turkey to escape back to Russia.
A step back. The Russian manager is wanted by United States authorities for smuggling oil from Venezuela to Russia and China, bank fraud, money laundering and trafficking in military technology from the US to Russia in breach of sanctions. He was facing 30 years in prison. However, on March 22, the day after a court in Milan approved his extradition to the US, he managed to escape from house arrest despite wearing an electronic bracelet.
- US authorities had feared that outcome, as evidenced by a letter sent by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of International Affairs to the Italian Ministry of Justice’s Office of International Cooperation.
- Citing the “very high risk” that Mr Uss would escape, the DoJ urged the Italian authorities to take all possible precautions and detain him for the entire duration of the extradition proceedings, appeals included.
Fast forward. Mr Uss reappeared in the Russian media on Tuesday. “I am in Russia! During these particularly dramatic days, strong and reliable people were with me. Thanks to them,” he told State-owned Ria Novosti. “My return to the homeland, even in such a ‘non-standard’ way, is a victory,” he said before accusing the Italian court of being “willing to bend” to US pressure.