Moscow offers Washington US citizens in return for jailed pilot Yaroshenko – Foreign Ministry

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Moscow has proposed a prisoner exchange with Washington that would also see the return of Russian diplomatic property that was seized in the US, according to Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.

Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, jailed in the US for 20 years after a DEA sting operation, should be freed and swapped for any American citizen who is serving time in Russia, Ryabkov said.

He didn’t mention any names, but former US marine, Paul Whelan, is currently being held in pre-trial detention in Moscow. Whelan was arrested in late 2018 with documents containing Russian “state secrets” in his possession, and was charged with espionage.

The statements by Ryabkov were made after a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump at the G20 summit in Osaka last weekend. The talks between the two leaders “give ground for optimism about the future of Russian-American relations,” he said.

Yaroshenko was detained in Liberia in 2010 and was secretly moved to the US in violation of international law. He received a lengthy sentence on accusations of “conspiring” to smuggle a large batch of South American cocaine.

The Russian authorities maintained his innocence and repeatedly complained about the harsh conditions and lack of medical care he received in US prison.

As for Russian diplomatic properties in Washington DC, San Francisco and Seattle, as well as in the states of Maryland and New York, they were seized by the US last year as part of its sanctions war against Moscow. Russia has repeatedly stated that the move was against international law and diplomatic protocol.

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