Moscow wants answers on lawyer in U.S.
Official says such cases have become a ‘habit’ after indictment of Veselnitskaya
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