[h1]Moscow accuses US of kidnapping pilot[/h1]
MOSCOW – The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. on Wednesday of "kidnapping" a Russian pilot in the West African country of Liberia several weeks ago for alleged drug smuggling.
Konstantin Yaroshenko, 41, was arrested in Monrovia, Liberia's capital, in late May — by U.S. agents, Russian officials said — and then extradited to New York.
He was charged with smuggling "thousand-kilogram quantities of cocaine" throughout South America, Africa and Europe, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency said in a statement.
Russia's Foreign Ministry sharply condemned Yaroshenko's arrest and extradition.
"We're talking about a kidnapping of a Russian national from a third country," Russia's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday in a statement on its website. "The actions of 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."
Asked about the case at a news briefing, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that, with regard to specifics, he would defer to the Justice Department or the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Crowley said that, upon his arrival in New York, Yaroshenko was given access to a Russian consulate official.
Yaroshenko's lawyer, Alexander Bozhenko, was quoted Wednesday by RIA news agency as saying that the way Yaroshenko was arrested violated the law, and that Yaroshenko was kept tied up in a hotel room, naked and without water, for two days before his extradition.
RIA quoted Yaroshenko's wife, Viktoria, as saying that her husband had been working as a pilot in various African countries for 10 years. She said he visited Liberia in May for talks with potential employers, RIA said.
A Russian diplomat accused U.S. agents of "framing" Yaroshenko.
"They needed any pilot, any airline to frame," Russia's general consul in New York, Andrey Yushmanov, said in televised remarks.
Russia's NTV played a telephone interview with a man who identified himself as Yaroshenko and claimed that he had been was arrested illegally and tortured.
In recent years, drug cartels have used West Africa as a major transit point for shipment of vast quantities of cocaine to Europe and the U.S.
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