Investigators launch criminal case against US agents over pilot kidnapping, torture

Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko (RIA Novosti)
Russia’s top law enforcement agency has launched a criminal case against 11 US DEA officers, alleging they are complicit in a sting operation that ended in the detention and trial of Russian citizen Konstantin Yaroshenko.

The Investigation Committee – special agency for serious and high profile crimes – reported on Monday that its branch in South Russia’s Rostov Region has launched criminal cases against 11 US citizens and four Liberian citizens over charges of kidnapping, with use of violence or threats of violence. Additional charges include forcing a person to testify in a criminal process using intimidation or torture. In Russia, these crimes are punished with prison sentences of up to 12 and eight years respectively.

A US court sentenced Konstantin Yaroshenko to 20 years in 2011 for allegedly participating in a conspiracy to smuggle drugs to the United States. He was arrested in Liberia following a sting operation and handed over to the US, despite protests from Russia and violations of the diplomatic code. The pilot himself has always maintained his innocence, saying his poor command of English prevented him from understanding the nature of suggestions leveled at him by undercover DEA agents.

Yaroshenko and his relatives have repeatedly maintained the whole scheme was organized by US special services in an attempt to extract evidence against Viktor Bout - another Russian citizen illegally extradited to the US and sentenced after another sting operation.

READ MORE: ‘I was framed because of Bout’ – jailed Russian pilot

Russian diplomats have repeatedly criticized the arrests and trials of both Yaroshenko and Bout. They say it’s an example of biased US justice based on fabricated charges.

In 2014, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued an official warning to all citizens who travel abroad, especially to countries that have extradition agreements with the United States. “The US administration makes a routine practice out of hunting for Russian citizens in third countries, with subsequent extradition and conviction in the USA, usually over dubious charges,” the document read.