Russia will “never” extradite any of the 13 Russians indicted by the United States for election-meddling, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said, even as he insisted they didn’t act on behalf of his government, a Fox News report said on Monday.
Putin’s comments in an NBC News interview aired on Sunday illustrated the long odds that the Russian operatives would ever appear in US court to answer charges of running a massive, secret social media trolling and targeted messaging operation to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
The United States has no extradition treaty with Moscow and can’t compel it to hand over citizens, and a provision in Russia’s constitution prohibits extraditing its citizens to foreign countries.
“Never. Never. Russia does not extradite its citizens to anyone,” Putin said.
For years, the Justice Department has supported indicting foreigners in absentia as a way to shame them and make it harder for them to travel abroad.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicts 13 Russians for election interference. Former New York State Homeland Security Director Michael Balboni says Russians have used American technology against the US.
The detailed, 37-page indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller last month alleges Russian operatives working for the Internet Research Agency used fake social media accounts and on-the-ground political organizing to exacerbate divisive political issues in the U.S. Posing as American activists, the operatives tried to conceal the effort’s Russian roots by purchasing space on U.S. computer servers and using US email providers.
Andrew P Napolitano, the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel, wrote in an opinion last month “that the American intelligence community has done similar “disinformation” projects in foreign countries (though not on this scale), these defendants and these indictments will go nowhere.”
Yet Putin argued his government has little to answer for until the US provides “some materials, specifics and data.” He said Russia would be “prepared to look at them and talk about it,” while repeating his government’s insistence that it had no role in directing the operatives to act against the United States.
“I know that they do not represent the Russian state, the Russian authorities,” Putin said. “What they did specifically, I have no idea.”