- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Courts in Spain and Greece separately ruled within hours of each other this week to extradite two Russian men wanted by U.S. prosecutors in connection with unrelated federal cybercrime probes amid worsening relations between Washington and Moscow.

Russian citizens Pyotr “Peter” Levashov, 36, and Alexander Vinnik, 37, were arrested earlier this year while vacationing in Spain and Greece, respectively, spurring separate but similar extradition battles at the center of this week’s rulings.

Mr. Levashov allegedly operated the Kelihos botnet, a network of more than 100,000 infected computers responsible for distributing viruses and spam, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Mr. Vinnik, meanwhile, is accused of masterminding a $4 million money-laundering ring involving bitcoin, a popular form of digital cryptocurrency.

Each of the accused faces a maximum punishment of more than 50 years in federal prison if convicted on all counts — an outcome made increasingly likely after the courts recently rejected extradition requests filed by Russia and agreed to send the accused stateside pending appeal.

The National Court of Spain agreed Tuesday that Mr. Levashov can be sent to the U.S to stand trial, Reuters reported. A three-member panel of judges in Thessaloniki, Greece, similarly decided Wednesday that Mr. Vinnik may be extradited as well, according to The Associated Press.

Mr. Levashov is expected to appeal the ruling, Reuters reported, and Mr. Vinnik’s attorneys have already filed a formal challenge with Greek’s highest court, the AP report said.

At least seven Russian nationals have been arrested or indicted worldwide this year in connection with U.S. cybercrime charges, Reuters reported, anything but alleviating tensions between former Cold War foes.

U.S. intelligence officials concluded in January that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized Kremlin-sponsored operatives including hackers and propagandists to interfere in the 2016 White House race in order to hurt the campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, spurring a tit-for-tat row that has resulted in dozens of diplomats being expelled from either country.

Neither Mr. Levashov nor Mr. Vinnik is charged in connection with Russia’s alleged election meddling, though the former has insisted he’ll be tortured to death if extradited to the U.S. by authorities interested in details about his former employee, Mr. Putin’s United Russia party.

“If I go to the U.S., I will die in a year. They want to get information of a military nature and about the United Russia party,” he told Russian media recently. “I will be tortured, within a year I will be killed, or I will kill myself.”

Spain’s high court rejected his claim Tuesday, stating: “Nothing has been proven with respect to the allegations about political motivation and neither … has the potential infringement of the accused’s right to life or of his physical integrity,” Reuters reported.

Moscow has denied meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential race.

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