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U.S., Russia Bicker Over 'Kidnapped' Pilot Drug Suspect

Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, undated
In the teeth of fierce Russian criticism, the United States has defended its arrest and extradition from West Africa of a Russian pilot suspected of involvement in the international drug trade.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said in a statement issued in Washington on July 21 that Konstantin Yaroshenko had been arrested in Monrovia, Liberia, on May 30 on an arrest warrant issued by a U.S. district court.

He had been charged with smuggling thousands of kilograms of cocaine throughout South America, Africa, and Europe.

DEA spokeswoman Dawn Dearden denied allegations that Yaroshenko had been tortured while in custody.

She said that "while he was in DEA custody, the agency followed the rules of law and the Geneva Convention regulations regarding treatment of a defendant."

Russia's Foreign Ministry has sharply condemned Yaroshenko's arrest and extradition. In a statement, the ministry said on July 21 that the case is a "kidnapping of a Russian national from a third country."

It said that the action of what it called U.S. special services "in the forcible and secret relocation of our national from Monrovia to New York could only been seen as open lawlessness."

Yaroshenko's lawyer in New York, Sam Schmidt, said that "somehow" American officials took the pilot into custody in Monrovia without informing the Russian Embassy or consulate there.

Speaking to reporters at the State Department in Washington on July 21, spokesman Philip Crowley said however that Yaroshenko had received consular access upon his arrival in the United States.

"Upon his arrival in New York, he was given consular access," Crowley said. "I will check and see if we've had any further interaction with our Russian counterparts and whether, in fact, they have been informed about the nature of the charges."

Crowley said he could not comment further on the case, saying it was in the hands of the U.S. Justice Department.

compiled from agency reports