the kremlin threatens retaliation after authorities arrested Artyom Uss, the son of a senior Russian official, at the request of the United States, for allegedly participating in a sanctions evasion and money laundering scheme.
Uss, who was arrested in Milan, was charged in connection with a scheme to illegally obtain united states military technology and sanctioned the Venezuelan oil company to support Russia’s war effort in Ukraineaccording to charges unsealed by the US Department of Justice this week.
“We are categorically against this and condemn the practice of this type of arrest of Russian citizens,” a Kremlin spokesman. Dmitry Peskov said.
Uss’s father, the governor of Russia’s Krasnoyarsk Krai region, Alexander Uss, suggested the arrest was politically motivated, according to TASS.
Another Russian government spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said Moscow would not leave the US search for Russians “unanswered” and accused the US of “taking hostages for ‘political purposes’,” TASS reported.
Uss was not the only one charged in the money laundering and smuggling scheme. Uss co-owned a trading company called Nord-Deutsche Industrieanlagenbau GmbH (NDA GmbH) that he and his co-conspirators allegedly used as a front to ship US defense technology to Russia.
USS and its co-conspirators are accused of using NDA GmbH to ship advanced semiconductors and microprocessors for fighter jets, missile systems, smart munitions, radar and satellites into Russia, some of which have been found in weapons used in the war in Ukraine.
“Some of the same electronic components obtained through the criminal scheme have been found in Russian weapons platforms seized on the battlefield in Ukraine,” the Justice Department said in an announcement, adding that the defendant developed a “sophisticated network ” of schemes that “undermined security, economic stability and the rule of law around the world”.
The group of co-conspirators also allegedly shipped hundreds of millions of barrels of oil from Venezuela to Russian and Chinese entities, including at least one sanctioned oligarch.
The 12-count indictment charged five Russian citizens in total, including Yury Orekhov, Svetlana Kuzurgasheva, Timofey Telegin and Sergey Tulyakov. Juan Fernando Serrano Ponce and Juan Carlos Soto were also accused of setting up illegal oil deals for the Venezuelan state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela S.A.
One of the co-conspirators openly acknowledged that NDA GmbH was working for a sanctioned oligarch, according to court documents.
“The [the oligarch] it is also under sanctions,” Orekhov said. “That’s why we [are] acting from this company [NDA GmbH]. as a facade.
Russia has long helped Venezuela evade sanctions around the world. But the latest charges expose the multiple layers of sanctions that the United States has imposed on both Russia and Venezuela.
The United States has been sanctioning Venezuela for more than 15 years, and in recent years has placed restrictions on Venezuela’s state oil company and other entities in order to try to pressure Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro out of power.
The sanctions on Russian banks in recent months, which the United States and other nations have imposed in an attempt to try to isolate Moscow on the world stage while it attacks Ukraine, are likely harm Venezuela’s ability to access its assets, according to the Congressional Research Service. But higher oil prices of the Russian invasion of Ukraine appear to be fueling a semblance of economic recovery for Venezuela, according to the CRS.
Task Force KleptoCapture, the Justice Department group established earlier this year with the goal of punishing Russia for the war in Ukraine and applying sanctions to Russian oligarchs, announced the charges along with other Justice Department entities.
“Eliminating evasion of military technology export controls is a top priority for the Task Force,” Andrew Adams, director of the KleptoCapture Task Force, said in a statement. “Networks of shell companies, cryptocurrencies, and an international network of fraudsters failed to protect Orekhov and his cronies from apprehension by US law enforcement.”
It is unclear what Russia will do in response to Uss’s arrest.
Asked Thursday whether Uss’s arrest is related to negotiations to free Brittney Griner from Russia, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to speculate.
“The president is willing … to take extraordinary measures to bring Americans home,” Jean-Pierre said in a briefing with reporters.