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Estonian Officer Allegedly Abducted by Russia Sentenced to 15 Years in Jail

Reuters TV / ReutersA still image from a video footage shows Estonian police officer Eston Kohver in a defendants' cage during a court hearing in Pskov, Russia, June 2, 2015.
An Estonian police officer allegedly abducted by Russia in a cross-border raid was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Wednesday, further stoking tensions between Moscow and the former Soviet republic.
Russia arrested Eston Kohver on espionage charges in September last year, saying the Estonian was caught on Russian territory, but Tallinn maintains he was taken at gunpoint at a border crossing.
The sentence will put further strain on already frayed relations between the two countries, which have deteriorated since Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine last year.
"I strongly condemn [the] verdict on Eston Kohver; his illegal detention constitutes a grave violation of international law by the Russian Federation," Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas said on Twitter.
The European Union said Kohver's detention in Russia was illegal and called for his immediate release.
"Mr. Kohver has been deprived of the right to a fair trial: there was no public hearing of the case," EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.
Kohver will serve his sentence in a Russian high security prison and be fined 100,000 rubles ($1,525), Interfax news agency quoted his lawyer as saying outside the Pskov regional court, where Estonian and European Union diplomats gathered to protest the conviction.
"Together with our allies and partners, we intend to keep up international pressure until Eston Kohver is released and has returned home to his family," Estonian Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand said in a statement.
Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), a successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB, said Kohver was detained carrying a Taurus handgun with ammunition, 5,000 euros ($5,500) in cash, equipment for concealed audio recording and documents that "bear evidence of an intelligence mission."
Tallinn said he was taken trying to stop illegal activity on the border when unidentified abductors jammed radio communications and used smoke grenades.
In recent years, the border has seen a number of incidents involving the smuggling of goods, weapons and migrants.
Kohver was in the early information-gathering stages of an investigation by Estonia's Internal Security Service into a smuggling ring run by organized crime groups operating in the border region, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported in June.
Estonian officials have alleged that, together with organized crime groups, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) was involved in smuggling across the border.
Shortly after Kohver was allegedly abducted, Estonian President Toomas Henrick Ilves wrote on Twitter that the country's Internal Security Service "deals both with counterintelligence and organized crime. Just in some places they turn out to be [the] same."
Estonia and other former Soviet republics in the Baltics, which now belong to both the EU and NATO, have urged both organizations to take a tough stance toward Russia over its actions in Ukraine, where the West says Moscow is sending troops across the border to support separatist rebels.

Moscow has repeatedly denied these accusations.

Russian Police Bust Underground Cheese Factory

By Ivan Nechepurenko

Since March, the organized group had supplied large supermarkets in Moscow, the surrounding Moscow region and St. Petersburg with 2 billion rubles worth of illegal products.
Police officers have uncovered a vast illegal factory in the Moscow region that was making cheese using products that are banned from being imported into Russia over the Ukraine crisis, police said in a statement Tuesday.
The organized crime group, consisting of at least two organizers and four active members, was repackaging cheese rennet casein — obtained by curdling milk with the enzyme rennet — and labeling it as a product “of leading natural cheese producers of the world,” the statement said.
President Vladimir Putin signed a decree a year ago banning imports of most agricultural produce from countries that imposed sanctions against Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.
Since then, Russia has been struggling to make the food ban effective. At the end of July, Putin ordered the destruction of all banned food items discovered by customs officers. As of Monday, 321 tons of animal products had been seized, of which 48 tons were destroyed, the agricultural watchdog agency Rosselkhoznadzor said in a statement.
Two organizers and four active members of the group running the illegal factory were detained by police. If charged and convicted, they face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 1 million rubles ($15,000).
Since March, the organized group had supplied large supermarkets in Moscow, the surrounding Moscow region and St. Petersburg with 2 billion rubles ($30.5 million) worth of illegal products, the police statement said.
The factory was relabeling the rennet casein produced in Iran and Turkey as Dutch Maasdam allegedly produced by a factory in Russia's Krasnodar region, or as other popular international cheese labels, Kommersant newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Police officers conducted 17 searches in the warehouses, offices and apartments used by the group and found 470 tons of the rennet, as well as equipment for printing fake labels, the statement said.
In another attempt to crack down on the smuggling that has proliferated since the food import ban was imposed, the Prosecutor General's Office said Tuesday it was launching a hotline for people to report cases of illegally imported food.
“Unscrupulous traders are importing these products without subjecting them to any quality control or adhering to transport and storage conditions, which could endanger people's health,” prosecutors said in an online statement. “To prevent mass violations of people's rights, The Prosecutor General's Office has set up a hotline.”
A day earlier, three State Duma deputies from the nationalist LDPR party introduced a bill that would take the food import ban a step further, and make it a crime to sell those products in Russian stores, as well as to import them, according to the parliament's website.
In their statement on the bill, the deputies argued that a sale ban is needed to enhance Russia's national security.

Elizaveta Vereykina contributed to this report.

More than 25 people on international wanted list extradited to Russia in 2015

4 August 2015 TASS

More than 25 people on international wanted list have been extradited to Russia thanks to Interpol in 2015, including leaders and members of organized criminal groups, Russia’s Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said on Tuesday at a meeting with Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock in Jakarta.
More than 25 people on international wanted list have been extradited to Russia thanks to Interpol in 2015, including leaders and members of organized criminal groups, Russia’s Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said on Tuesday at a meeting with Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock in Jakarta.
The meeting between Kolokoltsev and Stock took place in the framework of 35th conference on ASEAN police (ASEANAPOL) underway in Indonesia. Kolokoltsev noted that for Russia, one of the most important aspects of fighting crime is the practical implementation of the principle of inevitability of punishment. "In this connection, Interpol provides unique instruments that allow to find criminals who try to escape justice in the furthest parts of the planet. Since the start 2015, more than 25 people on international wanted list have been handed to Russia, including leaders and members of organized criminal groups," the Interior Ministry’s press service quoted Kolokoltsev as saying.
One of the main principles of Russian police is its openness to the public, the minister said. "It is the only way to create the atmosphere of trust between law enforcers and citizens," he noted. "It became a significant event for us when in November 2014, Police Major-General Alexander Prokopchuk of Russia, the Head of Interpol’s National Central Bureau in Moscow, was elected to Interpol Executive Committee. I am convinced that his experience in international police cooperation and fighting against transnational crime will prove useful in Interpol’s work," Kolokoltsev stressed.
First published by TASS.

Crime group ferrying illegal migrants from Vietnam to European Union stopped in Belarus

MINSK, 3 August (BelTA) – The operation of an international organized crime group involved in the illegal transportation of Vietnam citizens from Russia to the European Union via Belarus has been stopped, representatives of the State Border Committee of Belarus told BelTA.
The group included two Russian citizens, who were born in 1983 and 1994 and grew up in Chechnya, and four Kyrgyzstan citizens born in 1980, 1988, and 1990. On 30-31 July the crime group organized an illegal entry from Russia to Belarus for ten Vietnam citizens as well as their transportation across the country for the sake of consequent crossing of the Belarusian-Lithuanian border.
The criminals were apprehended and delivered to the Smorgon division of the Belarusian border service. Legal action has been taken to bring criminal charges against the citizens of Russia and Kyrgyzstan in accordance with Belarusian laws, BelTA has been told.

Senior Coroner rules hedge fund Hermitage Capital is an 'interested person’ Perepilichnyy death

A senior coroner in Surrey, England has ruled that Hermitage Capital will be recognized as an interested person in the Alexander Perepilichnyy inquest, the website Law and Order in Russia said. Hermitage Capital made the application because of specific facts which pointed to the possibility that Alexander Perepilichnyy was murdered in November 2012 in Surrey.
Hermitage Capital was forced to intervene in the coroners inquest because the Surrey police decided that Alexander Perepilichnyy's death was 'not suspicious' and 'did not involve third parties'. In written and oral applications submitted by Geoffrey Robertson QC and Henrietta Hill QC, Hermitage disclosed how Alexander Perepilichnyy had described fears over being murdered by members of the Russian organized crime connected to the Russian government.
"We cannot allow the Russian government to get away with murder in the UK. We will make sure that all the facts surrounding Alexander Perepilichnyy's death, including any suggestion that it was linked with his involvement in exposing the Russian organized crime connected to the Magnitsky case are elucidated in full at the inquest," said William Browder, leader of Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Campaign.
In 2010, Alexander Perepilichnyy provided evidence to Hermitage Capital which lead to the freezing of accounts belonging to Vladlen Stepanov, husband of a senior Russian tax official held in Swiss banks. He twice testified to the Swiss prosecutors and subsequently received death threats by various elements inside the Russian government.

Alexander Perepilichnyy died on 10 November 2012 after returning from a trip to Paris. The British police closed the case but the French authorities have since opened a full murder investigation.

Scotland Yard Accuses Russia of Using Nuclear Weapon in London

The British government traced radioactive poison used to kill an ex-KGB spy from a hotel tea kettle all the way back to Moscow.

LONDON¬ — Scotland Yard has formally accused Russia of carrying out a nuclear attack on the streets of London for the first time.
Years of painstaking investigation and forensic work have convinced British law enforcement agents and the security services that the Kremlin was behind a dastardly plot to assassinate a Russian defector with a cup of tea laced with the radioactive isotope Polonium-210.
“Our silence must now end,” said the lawyer representing Scotland Yard, on the penultimate day of the inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko.
Litvinenko, a former KGB and FSB agent, died slowly, and in great pain, in November 2006. Several weeks earlier he had taken tea with a former Russian intelligence operative at a luxury hotel less than a mile from Buckingham Palace.
The radioactive substance that killed him was eventually detected in hair samples and traced, via a teapot at the Millennium hotel, all the way back to Moscow.
“The… investigation has always had, at its central core, the science,” said Richard Horwell QC, representing Scotland Yard.
He explained that the radioactive trail proved Dmitri Kovtun, a former Soviet army officer, and Andrei Lugovoi, a retired FSB agent, had been the men who administered the fatal dose of nuclear poison. Their attempt to evade the authorities using such a rare murder weapon backfired spectacularly.
“It is the scientific evidence that condemns Lugovoi and Kovtun,” Horwell told the inquiry “No matter how many state honors Putin may pin to Lugovoi’s chest for services to the motherland, however meteoric Lugovoi’s rise in politics has been and may become, however many times Kovtun promises to blow apart this inquiry, Lugovoi and Kovtun have no credible answer to the evidence and to the trail of polonium they left behind.”
Litvinenko, 43, had been working for Britain’s foreign intelligence agency, MI6, supplying information about the Russian security services for three years. After securing asylum in Britain, he had also renewed his attacks against Vladimir Putin.
In 1999, he wrote a book claiming that an FSB “false flag” operation had carried out the firebomb attacks on Russian apartment bombings that killed 300 and paved the way for Russia’s war in Chechnya. He also claimed Putin had links to Russian organized crime and accused him of ordering the murder of campaigning journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
“The evidence suggests the only credible explanation is that in one form or another the Russian state was involved in Mr. Litvinenko’s murder,” Horwell said. “The two attacks on Mr. Litvinenko were an outrage. They led to great suffering on his part and eventually to his demise.”
British officials also believe the plot to bring radioactive substances into London could have endangered many more lives. Traces of polonium were found all over the city where Lugovoi visited, including a lap-dancing club and the Arsenal soccer stadium.
“We will never know how dangerous the exposure of polonium to the public at large will be and what long-term effects will be visited upon Londoners,” said Horwell.