Russia has warned its citizens against traveling overseas, claiming they will be hunted down by U.S. operatives wherever they are around the world.
The Russian Foreign Ministry in a statement on its website told citizens that the threat of being detained or arrested by U.S. law enforcement and special services is “real” following the case of Vladimir Drinkman. The latter is in the U.S. facing allegations of hacking and wire fraud in the Netherlands. He is accused to be part of an international computer hacking conspiracy that pillaged 160 million credit card numbers from 2005 to 2012. His alleged victims, according to the Department of Justice, included NASDAQ, 7-Eleven, JCP, Hannaford, Heartland, Wet Seal, Commidea, JetBlue, Dow Jones, Euronet, Visa, Jordan, Global Payment, Diners Singapore, and Ingenicard.
He pleaded not guilty to the accusations of hacking U.S. financial institutions’ computer networks and payment processors. Drinkman is one of five co-defendants wanted by law enforcement. The others are Alexandr Kalinin, Dmitriy Smilianets, Roman Kotov and Mikhail Rytikov. The first three are Russians, while Kotov is a Ukrainian.
“The threat of detention or arrest on the warrant of law enforcement bodies and special services of the USA in third countries still persists. It is quite real,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in its statement. “The American authorities continue the unacceptable practice of ‘hunting’ for Russians all over the world, ignoring the norms of international laws and twisting other states’ arms.”
Washington, the foreign ministry said, goes as far as kidnapping citizens. Russia said the number of such cases has already exceeded fifteen. It claimed it had repeatedly called on Washington to arrange normal cooperation between law enforcement agencies based on the 1999 Russian-U.S. Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, but that such requests have fallen on deaf ears.
As such, “we reaffirm our strong recommendation to Russian citizens in planning their trips abroad to carefully weigh all risks, especially if there are reasons to presume that U.S. law enforcement agencies might have something against them. This concerns above all trips to countries having extradition agreements with the U.S.,” it said.