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U.S. asks Brazil to extradite Russian spy who posed as pupil Lalrp

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America has requested Brazil to extradite an alleged Russian spy charged final month by the Justice Division with posing as a overseas pupil in Washington whereas finishing up espionage operations in opposition to the West, in accordance with U.S. and Brazilian officers.

The alleged spy, a Russian citizen named Sergey Cherkasov, is serving a 15-year jail sentence in Brazil for doc fraud associated to his pretend id. The extradition request filed Tuesday represents a unprecedented try by america to take custody of a Russian operative held abroad whereas Moscow is pursuing its personal effort to safe his launch. Russia has denied that Cherkasov is a spy and as an alternative filed its personal extradition request accusing him of being a heroin trafficker.

Cherkasov, who’s initially from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, secretly labored for the nation’s army intelligence service whereas fooling Western authorities, universities and establishments into believing that he was a Brazilian pupil named Victor Muller Ferreira, in accordance with a Justice Division indictment.

The U.S. extradition submitting comes amid escalating tensions over Russia’s current arrest of a Wall Avenue Journal reporter, Evan Gershkovich, on prices of espionage that U.S. officers have denounced as false, and a few assert is an try by Moscow to stockpile Western hostages it could swap for Russians held abroad.

Officers in Brazil mentioned the U.S. request can be relayed to the nation’s Supreme Courtroom, which ordinarily handles extradition issues, however Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva could also be pressured to intervene due to the sensitivity of the case.

He got here to D.C. as a Brazilian pupil. The U.S. says he was a Russian spy.

A Justice Division spokesman declined to remark, saying “as a matter of coverage, the division usually doesn’t touch upon extradition-related issues.” Paulo Ferreira, an legal professional in Brazil who represents Cherkasov, mentioned that he couldn’t touch upon the case however that his consumer has conveyed to Brazilian authorities his want to be extradited to Russia.

Cherkasov, 38, was convicted of doc and id fraud prices stemming from his use of falsified data to create the fictional Ferreira persona.

Utilizing that id, Cherkasov gained admission to the elite worldwide research program at Johns Hopkins College in Washington. After graduating in 2020, he was supplied an internship on the Worldwide Felony Courtroom in The Hague and was about to start out that place final yr when he was stopped at an airport by Dutch authorities — appearing on a tip from the FBI — and despatched again to Brazil.

His arrest is a part of a broader crackdown on Russian espionage networks within the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. European international locations expelled at the very least 400 Russian diplomats suspected of espionage after the beginning of the struggle, a purge that has continued with further expulsions in current weeks in Sweden and Germany.

Cherkasov was allegedly a part of a smaller, extra specialised cadre of Russian “illegals,” which means spies who don’t function beneath diplomatic cowl out of Russian embassies however as an alternative usually spend years growing false identities designed to obscure any hyperlink to the Russian authorities. Not less than six different illegals have been arrested or uncovered over the previous yr in international locations together with Norway, Slovenia and Greece.

In wake of Ukraine struggle, U.S. and allies are looking down Russian spies

Western officers say that the crackdown, as Russia wages a brutal struggle in Ukraine, has triggered better harm to Russian spy businesses and networks than at any time for the reason that finish of the Chilly Struggle.

The Cherkasov case additionally uncovered critical lapses in Russian tradecraft. Authorities who scoured his computer systems and different units had been capable of get better detailed data of his travels, areas of “lifeless drops” used to relay messages, emails despatched to his Russian handlers and an error-strewn try to put in writing down his fictitious life story — a doc that officers say he used to memorize particulars of his assumed Ferreira persona.

Regardless of these and different missteps, Cherkasov’s true id was not uncovered by U.S. officers till after he arrived within the nation’s capital to start his research at Johns Hopkins, in accordance with officers acquainted with the matter.

Utilizing entry that he gained throughout his two years in Washington, Cherkasov filed studies to Russia’s army intelligence service, the GRU, on points together with how the Biden administration may reply to a Russian invasion of Ukraine, in accordance with the FBI indictment.

Citing analysts at suppose tanks and different sources, Cherkasov predicted that america would in the end do little to assist Ukraine — an evaluation that was in step with the inaccurate forecasts of Russia’s intelligence providers main as much as the struggle.

Russia’s covert operations have a significant weak spot: Hubris

The dueling extradition requests are extremely uncommon, and whether or not america is more likely to prevail is troublesome to evaluate.

Brazil cooperated extensively with the FBI and CIA on the investigation of Cherkasov, in accordance with U.S. officers and Brazilian court docket data. However Washington has additionally been pissed off by Brazil’s refusal to sentence the Ukraine invasion and its pleasant gestures towards Moscow, which included welcoming Russian Overseas Minister Sergei Lavrov for a go to this month.

Russia’s personal extradition request faces different issues, together with that it fails to acknowledge seemingly apparent info about Cherkasov and his work for the GRU, in accordance with U.S. and Brazilian officers. As a substitute, Russia claims that Cherkasov was not a spy or a pupil, however a infamous drug trafficker who fled Russia to keep away from a prolonged jail sentence.

Brazil’s Supreme Courtroom has indicated that it’s going to not rule on any extradition request till the completion of an ongoing investigation of Cherkasov’s espionage actions in Brazil, officers mentioned.

Marina Dias in Brasília contributed to this report.

One yr of Russia’s struggle in Ukraine

Portraits of Ukraine: Each Ukrainian’s life has modified since Russia launched its full-scale invasion one yr in the past — in methods each massive and small. They’ve discovered to outlive and assist one another beneath excessive circumstances, in bomb shelters and hospitals, destroyed condominium complexes and ruined marketplaces. Scroll by means of portraits of Ukrainians reflecting on a yr of loss, resilience and concern.

Battle of attrition: Over the previous yr, the struggle has morphed from a multi-front invasion that included Kyiv within the north to a battle of attrition largely concentrated alongside an expanse of territory within the east and south. Observe the 600-mile entrance line between Ukrainian and Russian forces and check out the place the combating has been concentrated.

A yr of residing aside: Russia’s invasion, coupled with Ukraine’s martial legislation stopping fighting-age males from leaving the nation, has pressured agonizing choices for tens of millions of Ukrainian households about stability security, responsibility and love, with once-intertwined lives having turn into unrecognizable. Right here’s what a prepare station filled with goodbyes appeared like final yr.

Deepening world divides: President Biden has trumpeted the reinvigorated Western alliance cast throughout the struggle as a “world coalition,” however a better look suggests the world is way from united on points raised by the Ukraine struggle. Proof abounds that the trouble to isolate Putin has failed and that sanctions haven’t stopped Russia, due to its oil and gasoline exports.