Russia will “never” extradite any of the 13 Russians indicted by the United States for election-meddling, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, even as he insisted they didn’t act on behalf of his government.
Putin’s comments in an NBC News interview airing Sunday exemplified the long odds that the Russian operatives will ever may be found in U.S. court to answer charges of operating 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 obligate 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 style to shame them and make it harder for them to travel abroad.
The detailed, 37 -page indictment from special attorney Robert Mueller last month alleges Russian spies working for the Internet Research Agency employed fake social media accounts and on-the-ground political coordinating to exacerbate divisive political issues in the U.S. Posing as American activists, the spies tried to conceal the effort’s Russian roots by purchasing space on U.S. computer servers and using U.S. email providers.
Andrew P. Napolitano, the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel, wrote in an sentiment 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 U.S. offer “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 spies to act against the United States.
“I know that they do not represent the Russian country, the Russian authorities, ” Putin said. “What they did specifically, I have no idea.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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