Russia accuses U.S. of kidnapping pilot in Liberia

MOSCOW -- The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the United States on Wednesday of "kidnapping" a Russian pilot in the West African country of Liberia for alleged drug smuggling

Konstantin Yaroshenko

Konstantin Yaroshenko

Yaroshenko was charged with smuggling "thousand-kilogram quantities of cocaine" throughout South America, Africa and Europe, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said in a statement Wednesday.

DEA spokeswoman Dawn Dearden said Yaroshenko was apprehended May 28 by Liberian authorities, who turned him over to the DEA two days later under an arrest warrant issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

"While he was in DEA custody, the DEA followed the rules of law and the Geneva Convention regulations regarding treatment of a defendant," the statement said.

Russia's Foreign Ministry sharply condemned Yaroshenko's arrest and extradition.

"We're talking about a kidnapping of a Russian national from a third country," the ministry said Wednesday in a statement on its Web site. "The actions of U.S. special services in the forcible and secret relocation of our national from Monrovia to New York could only [be] seen as open lawlessness."

Asked about the case at a news briefing, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that he would defer to the Justice Department or the DEA on specifics. Upon his arrival in New York, Yaroshenko was given access to a Russian Consulate official, Crowley said.

Yaroshenko's attorney, Alexander Bozhenko, was quoted by RIA news agency as saying that the way Yaroshenko was arrested was illegal and that he was kept tied up in a hotel room, naked and without water, for two days.

A U.S. attorney for Yaroshenko, Sam Schmidt, said Wednesday that his "understanding was [his client] was not treated well" in Liberia but that he is "doing OK" in the U.S. prison system.He said Yaroshenko was not extradited but instead was expelled by the Liberian government just before he was taken into custody by Liberian authorities and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and brought to New York.

"Somehow from this existing expulsion order, the DEA took custody of him without notifying the Russian Embassy or Consulate or anyone else," Schmidt said.

-- Associated Press