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  • Margaret Kimberly, Freedom Rider

U.S. Targets Russians Accused of Cyber Crimes

Stanislav Lisov is a Russian citizen who was arrested in Barcelona, Spain earlier this year. But the arrest warrant did not come from Spanish authorities. He was wanted by the United States. American prosecutors are going to great lengths to capture Russians charged with cyber crimes. Lisov is among those accused of running multi million dollar bank, credit card and identity theft schemes.

Roman Seleznev is another unlucky Russian who fell into the hands of the American prosecutors. In 2014 he was visiting the Maldives, an Indian ocean nation with no extradition treaty with the United States. But officials there cooperated with Americans and snatched him from the airport before he could enter that country. He was sent to San Francisco to face charges, was convicted and recently sentenced to 27 years in prison.

There is a long list of Russians who have been arrested by the United States if they leave their country. They have been captured and transported to the United States from the Maldives, Finland, Thailand, Czech Republic, Norway and now Spain, which recently granted the U.S. its request to extradite Lisov.

It is very suspicious that at the moment when the United States is most hostile to Russia that its citizens accused of theft would be treated so harshly and with such determination. The Unites States has the biggest prison system in the world, with more than two million people incarcerated. It is known for its draconian sentences, prosecutorial misconduct and a system weighted heavily against defendants.

If these cases are worthy of prosecutions a country other than the United States should carry them out. America's motives should always be suspect, particularly now that Russia is accused of interfering in the recent presidential election. That nation and its president, Vladimir Putin, have been demonized to an extent not seen in recent history. It is difficult to believe that suddenly individuals accused of even large scale theft would suddenly be pursued with such ferocity.

American bankers committed vast crimes when they created the 2008 financial collapse. But they went unpunished. Why is it now so important to catch Russians accused of crime? The answer is obviously political. These people are being used to punish their nation because it refuses to be subordinate to the United States, which continues its provocations against the Russian government.

Associates of Bill Clinton admitted to interfering in Russia's elections in favor of Boris Yeltsin in 1996. Since that time the United States has expanded NATO, unilaterally withdrawn from a missile defense treaty, instigated a coup in Ukraine and attacked Syria, a Russian ally. It is difficult to believe that there is no political motivation for these arrests.

Unfortunately the propaganda has been successful. Russians are assumed to be evil and guilty and there are few Americans knowledgeable enough to call attention to these questionable prosecutions. If the United States had not declared their nation an enemy the crimes they are accused of committing would be ignored. At the very least another solution would have been worked out at high diplomatic levels. But Lisov and others are pawns in a political struggle.

These prosecutions are highly politicized and of dubious value. Given the nature of the U.S. criminal justice system and the level of hostility between the two nations, these prosecutions should be stopped and these individuals should be returned to their country.

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