The Russian foreign ministry demanded Thursday that the U.S. “stop hunting down our citizens around the globe.”
The strongly worded request comes one week after the U.S. secured the extradition of an alleged Russian botnet hacker from Spain.
“The number of Russians arrested in other countries at the request of the U.S. continues to increase,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, according to the MFA Twitter account. “There were 11 such cases in 2017. We demand that the U.S. stop hunting down our citizens around the globe.”
Zakharova singled out the case of Peter Levashov, who was detained in Spain in April 2017 on federal charges of Internet scamming. He was extradited to the U.S. last week to face the charges.
#Zakharova: The number of Russians arrested in other countries at the request of the US continues to increase. There were 11 such cases in 2017. We demand that the US stop hunting down our citizens around the globe
— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) February 8, 2018
U.S. prosecutors charged that Levashov, 37, operated the Kelihos botnet, a network of more than 100,000 infected devices used by cyber criminals to spread viruses, ransomware, phishing emails and other spam. The charges carry a prison sentence of up to 52 years if convicted.
Although Russian media has tied him to efforts to influence U.S. elections, the federal indictment does not include any election-related charges.
Levashov, who denies the charges, was scheduled to appear in court in Bridgeport, Conn., on Friday. He also faces federal civil charges in Alaska in connection with the Kelihos botnet, The Hartford Courant reports.
Levashov, who fought the extradition, told Spain’s High Court he worked for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party for the last 10 years, Russia’s RIA news agency reported. He was arrested while on vacation in Barcelona.
Zakharova said Levashov has complained about his detention conditions.
“We regard this as an attempt to pressure the Russian citizen into making him more compliant,” she said.
Levashov told the Spanish court that U.S. authorities would torture him for information about his political activity if he was extradited, RIA said.
Other Russian nationals extradited to the U.S. from third countries in recent years include Konstantin Yaroshenko, a professional pilot convicted in 2011 of cocaine trafficking, and Viktor Bout, convicted in 2012 on terrorism charges related to intent to smuggle weapons. Both denied the charges.
Yaroshenko was arrested by FBI agents in 2010 in Liberia, and Bout, a businessman dubbed the “merchant of death,” was arrested in Bangkok in 2008, Russia’s RIA Novosti reports.
In November, the Justice Department charged six members of the Russian government in the hacking of Democratic National Committee computers before the 2016 U.S. elections, the Wall Street Journal reported.
In addition, two Russian intelligence agents and two hackers were charged in early 2017 with masterminding the 2014 theft of 500 million Yahoo accounts.