Russian pilot jailed in US vows to continue fight for return home

Russian pilot jailed in US vows to continue fight for return home
Konstantin Yaroshenko, the Russian pilot jailed in the US for 20 years following a sting operation, has told reporters that he and his family will continue their fight for his return to Russia.

In his latest interview with the Izvestia newspaper, Yaroshenko said that he had no intention “of twiddling his thumbs” and that he and his family would press on to secure his repatriation at the earliest opportunity.

Convicted by a US court back in 2011 for plotting to smuggle drugs into America, Yaroshenko maintains his innocence. “I am not guilty of anything,” he insisted to reporters. “They charged me with something that I have never done and sentenced be to a tremendous prison term of 20 years. In my view, it would be simpler for the Americans to just hand me over a long time ago, this would cause much less problems than we have now.”

The charges against the former commercial airline pilot were based solely on the testimony of US DEA agents, who had launched a sting operation against him. The Russian was first arrested in Liberia in west Africa and then flown to the US without official extradition procedures –  in violation of the diplomatic code.

Russian diplomats have repeatedly requested that the US authorities hand over their citizen, but the requests are consistently denied. Yaroshenko recently accused US special services of abducting and torturing him to make him testify against another Russian citizen – Yaroshenko’s former boss Viktor Bout – who is now also serving a sentence in a US prison.

The latter was arrested in Thailand following a US-led sting operation and his subsequent extradition to America was in violation of international law.

Russian Human Rights Ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova has personally addressed US President Donald Trump, asking him to pardon the Russian citizen in view of the recent summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. However, earlier this week Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the two leaders did not touch upon the issue of Yaroshenko’s pardoning or handover during the talks.

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