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Greek Court Approves French Request To Extradite Russian

Russian cybercrime suspect Aleksandr Vinnik is currently in a Greek jail.
Russian cybercrime suspect Aleksandr Vinnik is currently in a Greek jail.

A Greek court has approved a French request to extradite a Russian cybercrime suspect who is also wanted in the United States and Russia, in a move which prompted Moscow to threaten reprisals.

The court in Thessaloniki, 500 kilometers north of Athens, on July 13 ruled in favor of France's request to take custody of bitcoin fraud suspect Aleksandr Vinnik, 38, who was arrested in Greece last year on a U.S.-issued warrant.

The decision came a day after authorities in Athens confirmed that two Russian diplomats were being expelled for allegedly providing funding to Greek groups opposed to a name deal with neighboring Macedonia that paved the way for the former Yugoslav republic to secure an invitation to join NATO.

Greece had been opposed to Macedonia's joining both the alliance and the European Union before the country changed its name for fear it might raise territorial claims on the historical Greek region of the same name.

After the Greek court's ruling, Moscow threatened with reprisals.

"Several days after taking an unfriendly decision to expel Russian diplomats and to deny entry to several Russian citizens, they have adopted a decision to extradite Russian citizen Aleksandr Vinnik to France," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on July 13.

"It is obvious that Russia cannot leave these actions unanswered," the statement warned.

France is seeking Vinnik for alleged cybercrime, money laundering, membership in a criminal organization, and extortion.

The Greek Supreme Court earlier approved Vinnik's extradition to the U.S. to stand trial for allegedly laundering billions of dollars using bitcoin.

Greece's justice minister is expected to decide where Vinnik will be sent after examining the competing extradition requests from France, Russia, and the United States. Vinnik has denied doing anything illegal. He remains jailed in Greece pending the final decisions on his extradition.

Greece's leftist prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, favors better ties between Russia and the European Union, and invited President Vladimir Putin to Greece two years ago, but Moscow and Athens disagree over Macedonia's goal to join NATO.

With reporting by AP and Interfax
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