Mystery surrounds who might be included in the expected prisoner exchange between Russia and the United States.
Days after the name of American basketball player Britney Grainer was traded in the deal, a Russian court sentenced the famous athlete to nine years in prison for drug smuggling.
Days after the ruling, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, announced their readiness to continue exchange talks, although they did not give further details.
And last month, US media reported that the US administration had made a “fundamental offer” to Moscow to trade Britney Greiner and Paul Whelan, a former US Marine serving 16 years in prison in Russia for espionage, in exchange for their release of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving 25 years in prison, and Moscow has been seeking his release for years.
However, it is not ruled out that the deal will include more prisoners on both sides, as Moscow still holds at least two Americans, while US prisons are filled with tens of thousands of Russians convicted of money laundering, hacking and ransomware.
Many of them were arrested in third countries on US arrest warrants and later extradited to the US, leading Moscow to accuse Washington of “stalking” its citizens around the world.
And the “Radio Free Europe” website saw that the Kremlin’s problem lies in determining who will choose from among the prisoners serving their sentences in US prisons for serious crimes.
The harsh sentences Russian courts have handed down to American citizens for crimes such as possession of marijuana could serve as Washington’s punishment for those arrests.
Arkady Buch, a US defense attorney who represents Russian-speaking agents, said some of the hackers are high-profile individuals who are important to the Kremlin and could be part of the swap deal.
Joch added that the two countries had traded diplomats and spies over the decades, but that the exchange of individuals convicted of criminal activity was “unusual”.
Earlier this year, the US administration agreed to swap Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2011 for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States, for Trevor Reed, a former US Marine who has been was captured in Russia. year on charges of assaulting two police officers.
Below is a list of Russian and American individuals expected to be involved in another possible prisoner exchange.
On the Russian side, in addition to Bout, there are Roman Seleznyov, Vladislav Klyushin, Alexander Vinnik and Denis Dobnikov.
He is the son of Valery Seleznyov, a member of the Russian parliament, who opposes American policy. Valery Selezneov is serving a 27-year US prison sentence for various cybercrimes, including selling stolen US credit card data.
In 2014, US authorities Seleznov Jr. (38) was arrested at an airport in the Maldives, and he was soon transferred to Guam, where Moscow accused Washington of kidnapping him.
In the late 2000s, US investigators uncovered Seleznyov’s online activities and sought help from the Russian Federal Security Service, but his online footprint soon disappeared, leading US investigators to believe that Russia was protecting him.
Seleznev, who is listed as Roman F. Seleznev in US court documents, received one of the harshest sentences ever handed down to a Russian hacker for not cooperating with US authorities despite the overwhelming evidence against him.
In March 2021, Wladislav Klyushin (41) was arrested in Switzerland, accused of stealing inside information and using it to make a fortune. He was extradited to the United States on December 18.
Clyushin is accused of being part of a group that uses sensitive data stolen from companies for stock trading. The group reportedly generated about $82 million over two years from 2018 to 2020.
Other members of the group remain at large, and one of them is a former officer of the Russian General Intelligence Directorate (GRU), who was previously indicted in July 2018 for his alleged role in a Russian attempt to interfere in the 2016 US election. to mix. .
Kluchin owns M-13, a Russian company that provides media monitoring and cyber security services; It is believed to have ties to the Kremlin, where his company provided IT solutions used by the Kremlin, ministries, federal departments and government executives.
Alexander Vinnik, 43, also known as “Mr. Bitcoin”, was extradited to the United States on August 5 to face money laundering charges.
The timing of Vinick’s move to the United States coincided with the Russian sentencing of Greiner, fueling speculation that he might be part of a possible swap deal.
In 2017, Vinic was arrested on a US warrant on a Greek beach while on vacation with his family. However, he was first extradited to France to face separate money laundering charges, and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Last Thursday, he was released from his French prison but immediately returned to Greece, which requested his return so it could implement the original US arrest warrant. If convicted by a US court, Vinick faces up to 20 years in prison.
Fenic reportedly owns and operates BTC-e, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world. The US claims that “BTC-e” was widely used by cybercriminals around the world for money laundering, as it did not require users to verify their identity, transactions, blocked and anonymous sources of funds, and lacked monitoring measures.
Last year, Dubnikov, 29, was arrested in the Netherlands at the request of the United States for laundering cryptocurrencies linked to a notorious ransomware gang.
Dubnikov flew to Mexico for vacation last November and was denied entry. Instead of being put on a plane to take him back to Russia, he was sent to the Netherlands, where he was arrested upon arrival.
Dubnikov, who co-owns small cryptocurrency exchanges, allegedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency from Ryuk, a ransomware gang believed to have received tens of millions in ransoms, including from American victims.
Dubnikov has denied the charges, with his lawyer saying his client “doesn’t know the source of the money”, which the US claims came from the ransom payments.
Dubnikov’s arrest was described as one of the first potential blows that US law enforcement could deal to the Ryuk gang, which is believed to be behind a series of cyberattacks on US healthcare facilities.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the gang received more than $100 million in ransom last year.
On the American side, in addition to Grenier and Whelan, there are David Barnes and Mark Vogel.
Russian authorities arrested David Barnes, 65, of Texas last January in Moscow on charges of child abuse in the United States.
In December 2021, Barnes traveled to Moscow to see or repatriate his children, after his Russian ex-wife, Svetlana Koptyaeva, fled to Russia with the children in 2019 amid a divorce and custody case pending in the United States was made.
In 2020, a Texas court granted child custody to Barnes, while his wife is wanted by US authorities for interfering with child custody.
The woman accused Barnes of child abuse, but a 2018 investigation by the Department of Family and Protective Services found insufficient evidence to support such a conclusion, and the case was closed without charges being brought.
He is a 60-year-old English teacher. Fogel was arrested at a Moscow airport in 2021 for carrying about half an ounce of medical marijuana.
He was sentenced to 14 years in prison after Russian prosecutors accused him of trying to sell drugs to his students as he worked in a primary school set up by the US, Canadian and British embassies in Moscow.
Fogel, who had surgery on his back, shoulder and knee, said he started using medical marijuana while on summer vacation in the United States to deal with the pain, and tried to carry some to Russia, where it is considered illegal.