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23 Jul, 2010 12:04

Russia accuses US special services of lawlessness after “abduction” of pilot

As Moscow expresses its outrage at the detention of a Russian pilot in Liberia and his extradition to the US, Washington has apologized for failing to promptly provide notice about the details of the case.

Russian citizen Konstantin Yaroshenko, 42, was detained by Liberian police and officers of the US Drug Control Agency during a joint operation on May 28. The transport aviation pilot and four more people were reportedly arrested in a hotel in Liberia’s capital Monrovia. He was accused of drug trafficking from South America and secretly transferred to New York.

In the recent years he has been working under a contract in African countries and had reportedly arrived in Monrovia to prolong his contract. After the detention he was kept in Liberia in bad conditions and was not able to contact neither his family nor Russian diplomats.

The Russian Foreign Ministry described the arrest of the pilot and his subsequent transfer from Monrovia to New York as “arbitrariness and the abduction of a Russian citizen in a third country.”

Moscow believes the actions of US agents violate international laws, the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the 1964 bilateral consular convention.

“While the US State Department in its reports tries to teach the whole world how to observe human rights, US special services engage in real abductions abroad,” the Foreign Ministry said in a commentary.

Earlier, US ambassador John Beyrle was invited to the Russian Foreign Ministry where the impermissibility of the actions to detain and illegally transport the pilot was pointed out to him.

Moscow had not received “proper notification of the arrest of our fellow citizen as is prescribed in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the bilateral consular convention,” the Russian consul general in New York Andrey Yushmanov told Interfax. The Russian government had learned about the detention from Yaroshenko’s family.

On July 23 the US apologized to Moscow for failing to give it prompt notice about the detention. An unidentified official had pressed the wrong fax button, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley explained.

“We just happened to send it to the wrong embassy,” Crowley added. The fax could have been received by the Romanian embassy, media reports said.

According to Crowley, Liberia “expelled” the pilot, and he was brought to the US by Americans. “There was cooperation between the United States and Liberia leading up to cracking this particular case and this particular network,” he said.

The trial of Yaroshenko has been scheduled for August 12, Yushmanov said.

The pilot is now receiving all the necessary consular assistance. Seeing as he was dissatisfied with the lawyer provided by the US authorities, the Consulate General has suggested several other lawyers to organize Yaroshenko’s defense.

The incident with the Russian pilot in Liberia follows a recent spy scandal that ended in the biggest swap of agents since the Cold War.

Sergey Borisov, RT