Ukraine has confirmed it requested that Czech authorities detain Aleksandr Franchetti, a Russian citizen wanted by Kyiv on an international arrest warrant and is seeking his extradition.
Franchetti, who was detained at Prague's international airport on September 12, is wanted by Ukraine for his alleged involvement in Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Black Sea region of Crimea.
"The detention was the result of coordinated actions of Ukrainian and Czech law enforcement agencies to bring Aleksandr Franchetti to justice for a number of crimes against our state, including the participation in the Russian occupation of Crimea," Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on September 13.
The extradition request is reportedly being considered by Czech authorities. Any request would go through the courts before the Czech Justice Ministry makes a decision.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Moscow had requested detailed information from the Czech government regarding the reasons for Franchetti's detention.
On September 12, the chief of Russia's Investigative Committee said he had ordered an investigation into Franchetti's detention.
"Due to the unacceptability of the misuse of international legal mechanisms aimed at politically motivated prosecutions, the chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation ordered the chief of the directorate for legal issues and international cooperation...to thoroughly study, in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry of Russia, the reasons and legal grounds of the Russian citizen's detainment on the territory of a foreign country," the Investigative Committee said in a statement.
A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Prague, Nikolai Bryakin, said on September 13 that Franchetti received a diplomatic visit in custody.
Franchetti was an active participant in the events in Crimea in 2014. Just days before Russia’s military occupation of the region, Franchetti created a paramilitary formation called North Wind, which helped seize power lines and gas pipelines.
In an interview posted on YouTube, Franchetti said he acted in coordination with Russia’s naval command at the Crimean port of Sevastopol.
Aleksandr Molokhov, a spokesman for the Russian occupation authorities in Crimea, also confirmed Franchetti’s arrest, claiming that he faced “certain death” at the hands of the Ukrainians.
Molokhov did not specify why he had reason to fear for Franchetti's life.
According to media reports, Franchetti was granted permanent residence in the Czech Republic in 2000 and has worked there as a fitness trainer. He says he has never violated international law.
In her September 13 statement, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zakharova also said that Moscow had warned the Czechs that the continuation of what she called "Prague's destructive policy regarding Russia and its citizens will lead to the further deterioration" of bilateral relations and would not go without a response.
Relations between Prague and Moscow soured considerably following Czech accusations in April that Russia was involved in a deadly arms-depot blast on Czech territory in 2014. Two Czech citizens were killed in the blast, which Prague said was aimed at destroying munitions that had been sold to Ukraine.
The ensuing diplomatic row led to the tit-for-tat expulsion of diplomats and the Russian government declaring the Czech Republic an "unfriendly" state.