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15 Feb, 2024 21:40

Russian businessman reveals how he escaped US extradition

Artyom Uss did not rule out the participation of state security services
Russian businessman reveals how he escaped US extradition

Rumors of spy involvement in his escape from Italy are “ridiculous,” Russian entrepreneur Artyom Uss said on Thursday. The US has posted a $7 million reward for his arrest.

The son of Krasnoyarsk Region governor Alexander Uss was arrested last March in Italy as he was flying to Türkiye. After his arrest, the US unsealed an indictment charging the Russian businessman with violating Washington’s sanctions on Venezuela.

Shortly after Italy approved his extradition to the US, Uss vanished from house arrest near Milan and resurfaced in Russia almost two weeks later. His escape has fueled wild rumors and conspiracy theories ever since.

“I’m a businessman, not a Bond hero,” Uss told the Russian outlet RBK in writing, via his lawyers. He described the escape as something that happened “completely unexpectedly.”

Uss said he was preparing for a long legal struggle and was optimistic because of “the obvious politicization and the weak arguments of the prosecution.” However, he also felt trapped in NATO territory “during the new Cold War” and being subjected to frequent checks by Italian Carabinieri, who “have the right to shoot to kill.”

According to the US government, the group that rescued Uss posed as delivery drivers to smuggle him out of his residence near Milan, removed his ankle monitor, and then somehow drove him across northern Italy, Slovenia and Croatia to Serbia.

Uss told RBK that his escape has fueled “conspiracy theories about Russian spies and oligarchs” all over the Italian internet and TV, including a meme “about a wizard and his blue helicopter.”

He would not comment on the claims that Russian security services may have taken part in his escape, calling it speculation.

“When the US authorities use any means to rescue their citizens, this is considered justified and they proudly make films about it. Why, then, wouldn’t Russia have the right to act the same way if it’s needed?” Uss added.

After he arrived in Russia last April, Uss said only that he had resorted to “non-standard means” of coming home, which he deemed justified under the circumstances when the West “plays without rules.”

His father has suggested the case against Uss may have been politically motivated, with the Americans trying to secure a prisoner they could trade for one of their suspected or convicted spies held in Russia, such as former Marine Paul Whelan.