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U.S. Blames Fax Error For Russia Mistake

The U.S. accuses Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko of flying "thousand-kilogram" shipments of cocaine throughout South America, Africa, and Europe.

The United States has apologized to Russia for failing to promptly notify Moscow that a Russian citizen suspected of drug crimes was in U.S. custody.

The U.S. State Department blamed the error on a U.S. official hitting the wrong button on a fax machine -- sending the notification not to Russia, but to a third country.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Washington had apologized to Russia over the mistake concerning the detention of cargo-plane pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was arrested in the West African nation of Liberia in May.

Crowley declined to identify which country received the notice, but Reuters quoted U.S. officials as saying it went to Romania.

The Russian Foreign Ministry earlier accused the U.S. of "kidnapping" Yaroshenko and violating international law and U.S.-Russian pacts in the case.

Liberian authorities took custody of Yaroshenko on May 28 during a drug bust, and he was handed over to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency on May 30.

According to a U.S. federal indictment, Yaroshenko flew "thousand-kilogram" shipments of cocaine throughout South America, Africa, and Europe.

He has been charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, which carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in U.S. prison and a maximum of life imprisonment.

compiled from agency reports