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Alleged Russian Hacker To Be Sent Where Worst Crimes Committed, Czech Minister Says

YouTube footage of Yevgeny Nikulin
YouTube footage of Yevgeny Nikulin

Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikan has said he will decide whether to extradite alleged Russian hacker Yevgeny Nikulin to the United States or Russia based primarily on where the most serious crimes were committed.

Pelikan told the Czech Chamber of Deputies he will also take into account which country requested extradition of Nikulin first, media reported on March 2.

Pelikan made his comments during a regular period of questioning from legislators on March 1.

"I will make a decision as soon as I am able to make it, because there are various processes for which I have to wait," he said.

Both of the criteria cited by Pelikan appear to favor the United States, which has accused Nikulin of more serious cybercrimes than Russia and put in its extradition request for the suspect first.

Nikulin, 30, has been under arrest in Prague since October 2016 based on an international arrest warrant issued by the United States, where he is suspected of hacking the LinkedIn and Formspring ( social networks and the Dropbox file-hosting service in 2012-13.

After he was detained, Russia asked for his extradition, citing him as a suspect in a minor $2,000 online theft in 2009.

The U.S. request for extradition was filed on November 16, 2016. The Czech Justice Ministry later received a Russian extradition request dated November 16, 2016, based on an arrest warrant dated November 10, 2016.

Czech legislator Miroslava Nemcova said the the United States is seeking Nikulin in part because he likely is acquainted with Russia's cyberwarfare operations against the West. Russia's quick move to repatriate Nikulin attests to his potential value to Western intelligence, she said.

"They want to get him in Russia because I think they are rightly afraid that the Americans would get him and ask him things that would not be good for Russia," Nemcova said.

Pelikan confirmed to the parliament that President Milos Zeman asked him to extradite Nikulin to Russia.

"He asked me repeatedly and vehemently. I listened to it and presented my stance to the president, which I am not going to interpret here," Pelikan said.

He said he does not feel any pressure to decide in Russia's favor because of Zeman's request.

Nikulin's attorneys have pushed to return their client to Russia, arguing that he could not expect a fair trial in the United States.

Nikulin faces a maximum 30 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines if convicted on U.S. charges, including computer intrusion, aggravated identity theft, conspiracy, and trafficking in illegal access devices.

With reporting by Axios and Prague Monitor
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