MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian businessman who made a daring escape from house arrest in Italy where he was nabbed on a U.S. warrant for breaching Western sanctions surfaced in Russia on Tuesday, saying he fled because Italian courts would have given in to American pressure to extradite him.
Artyom Uss, the 40-year-old son of the governor of Russia’s vast Krasnoyarsk region in eastern Siberia, was arrested in Italy in October on a U.S. warrant. The U.S. has sought Uss’ extradition on charges of smuggling Western technologies in violation of Western sanctions and money laundering. He was transferred from jail to house arrest at a compound on the outskirts of Milan in December.
Last month, Uss fled after an Italian court ruled to extradite him to the U.S. His location was unknown until Tuesday, when he told the state RIA Novosti news agency that he was back in Russia.
Uss argued he had to flee because the Italian court had “demonstrated its clear political bias” and was likely to “cave in under the U.S. authorities’ pressure” amid Russia-West tensions over fighting in Ukraine.
“In today’s international environment when they play against us ‘without rules,’ my return home, even though it happened in a ‘non-standard’ way, is a victory,” Uss told RIA Novosti.
He didn’t offer any details of his escape, but thanked “strong and reliable people who were next to me during those dramatic days.”
The Italian media have claimed that Russian intelligence agencies have been involved in arranging Uss’ escape. After removing his electronic bracelet, he was reportedly driven out of the country on a fake passport before taking a private jet back to Russia.
Russian officials haven’t commented on the media reports.
The Moscow City Court issued a ruling in December seeking Uss’ arrest in an apparent maneuver to set the stage for his extradition back home. The Russian Interior Ministry on Tuesday revoked its warrant for Uss’ arrest after he responded to investigators’ questions related to his case, Uss’ lawyer Alexei Tikhomirov told the Interfax news agency. He said investigators asked him not to leave Moscow.