Moscow wants an­swers on lawyer in U.S.

Of­fi­cial says such cases have be­come a ‘habit’ after in­dict­ment of Ve­sel­nit­skaya

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - WORLD -

MOSCOW: Moscow Fri­day crit­i­cized the U.S. in­dict­ment of Rus­sian lawyer Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya who met with of­fi­cials from Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion cam­paign in 2016, de­mand­ing Wash­ing­ton ex­plain the charges against her.

“We ex­pect a clear and ar­tic­u­late ex­pla­na­tion from Wash­ing­ton” of the charges, For­eign Min­istry spokes­woman Maria Zakharova told re­porters, adding that “crim­i­nal cases based on un­clear claims” against Rus­sians in the U.S. have be­come a “habit” for U.S. jus­tice.

Zakharova said it seemed like Wash­ing­ton was out for “re­venge” against Ve­sel­nit­skaya, who is at the cen­ter of the Rus­sia scan­dal rock­ing the U.S. pres­i­dency, after she met with Don­ald Trump Jr., who was seek­ing to get in­for­ma­tion on the Hil­lary Clin­ton cam­paign.

Don­ald Jr. said noth­ing came of the meet­ing as it was fo­cused on adop­tions of Rus­sian or­phans.

Ve­sel­nit­skaya de­nied med­dling in elec­tion is­sues and said the meet­ing was a waste of time.

The in­dict­ment this week said Ve­sel­nit­skaya had fab­ri­cated ev­i­dence in a 2013 case filed in the U.S. against Rus­sian firm Preve­zon hold­ings, which was al­legedly in­volved in a $230 mil­lion tax fraud scheme in Moscow ex­posed by cru­sad­ing lawyer Sergei Mag­nit­sky.

Mag­nit­sky was ar­rested and died in pre­trial de­ten­tion in 2009 of un­treated health is­sues, his case later in­spir­ing the U.S. Mag­nit­sky Act in­tended to black­list Rus­sian of­fi­cials im­pli­cated in hu­man rights abuses.

Ve­sel­nit­skaya’s in­dict­ment is, at least on the sur­face, un­re­lated to the probe into al­leged col­lu­sion be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sia ahead of his 2016 vic­tory over Clin­ton in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

She also dis­missed sug­ges­tions that an Amer­i­can ar­rested in Moscow on sus­pi­cion of spy­ing could be used in a pris­oner swap for a Rus­sian held in the United States.

Paul Whe­lan, a for­mer U.S. Ma­rine, was ar­rested in Moscow last month on sus­pi­cion of spy­ing.

Whe­lan’s ar­rest raised spec­u­la­tion that he could be swapped for one of the Rus­sians held in the U.S. such as gun rights ac­tivist Maria Butina, who has pleaded guilty to act­ing as a for­eign agent in the U.S.

Zakharova con­demned Bri­tish plans to open mil­i­tary bases in South­east Asia and the Caribbean and said Rus­sia stood ready to take re­tal­ia­tory mea­sures if its own in­ter­ests or those of its al­lies were threat­ened.

Bri­tish De­fense Min­is­ter Gavin Wil­liamson told the Sun­day Tele­graph news­pa­per last month that Lon­don was work­ing on plans to build two new for­eign bases “within the next cou­ple of years” after it left the EU. He did not spec­ify where the bases might be built, but the news­pa­per re­ported that op­tions in­cluded Sin­ga­pore or Brunei near the South China Sea and Montser­rat or Guyana in the Caribbean.

Zakharova de­scribed Wil­liamson’s com­ments as baf­fling and warned such plans could desta­bi­lize world af­fairs. “Of course, Britain like any other coun­try is in­de­pen­dent when it comes to its mil­i­tary con­struc­tion plans. But against the back­drop of over­all ris­ing mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal ten­sions in the world … state­ments about the de­sire to build up its mil­i­tary pres­ence in third coun­tries are coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, desta­bi­liz­ing and pos­si­bly of a provo­ca­tional na­ture,” she said.

“In the event of any mea­sures that pose a threat to Rus­sia’s se­cu­rity or that of its al­lies our coun­try re­serves the right to take ap­pro­pri­ate re­tal­ia­tory mea­sures.”

Rus­sia has mil­i­tary bases in sev­eral coun­tries across the for­mer So­viet Union and op­er­ates mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties in Syria. It has spo­ken of re­open­ing So­viet-era bases in Cuba and Viet­nam. – Agen­cies

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