Russia Angered by Extradition of Former Minister to US

By Sergei Blagov | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

Moscow ( - Moscow says a decision by the Swiss government to extradite a former Russian atomic energy minister to the United States to face criminal embezzlement charges may be detrimental to its national security.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the Swiss Justice Ministry decision to extradite Yevgeny Adamov was politically motivated and "contradicts legal and objective considerations."

It said Adamov, as a former member of the government, had immunity against criminal charges brought by any foreign state concerning his activities while in office.

Adamov was arrested in Bern last May at the request of the U.S. Justice Department, based on a U.S. District Court warrant.

The 66-year-old is accused of embezzling up to $9 million provided by the U.S. Energy Department to Russia to improve security at its nuclear facilities.

He has been indicted on charges of money laundering, tax evasion, conspiracy to transfer stolen funds and conspiracy to defraud the U.S.

Now that Switzerland has decided to extradite him, the Russian has 30 days to appeal to the Swiss Supreme Court. Russian media say he has begun a hunger strike in protest.

Russia earlier urged Switzerland not to send Adamov to the U.S. without its go-ahead. It argued that Adamov's detention violated international law.

The head of Russia's federal atomic energy agency, Alexander Rumyantsev, said Russia should try to secure Adamov's return home, while deputy Duma speaker Vladimir Pekhtin argued that the Russian citizen should have been sent home in line with an international extradition agreement signed by Russia and Switzerland.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, apparently resigned to the development, said Monday that if he was extradited, Adamov's rights should be fully respected.

Some Russian politicians suspect that the U.S. wants to get hold of Adamov because of his access to state secrets, notably information on Moscow's nuclear cooperation with Iran.

"The U.S. will be interested in having an ex-Russian minister at its disposal as a source of secret information of great interest for U.S. intelligence services," the vice-chairman of the parliamentary Security Committee, Viktor Ilyukhin, said Monday.

He called the Swiss decision "a serious blow to our country's prestige."

Lawmaker Mikhail Grishankov worried that Adamov would reveal secret information on nuclear weapons.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the far-right Liberal Democratic Party, said the U.S. wanted Adamov to disclose information on Iran's efforts to produce nuclear weapons. Earlier, the LDPR suggested Moscow send agents to kill Adamov in Switzerland and so prevent his extradition.

A nuclear physicist by training, Adamov was appointed atomic energy minister by President Boris Yeltsin in March 1998.

During his tenure, he pushed controversial legislation through parliament allowing Russia to import nuclear waste for reprocessing and storage. As a minister, he also opposed U.S. objections to Russia's building of a nuclear reactor for the Iranians at Bushehr.

In a bid to prevent his extradition to the U.S., Russian authorities made a counter-request to Switzerland, asking for Adamov to be sent to Russia to face fraud charges.

The Swiss authorities said the U.S. request took priority because, if he went to Russia first, he would not later be extradited onward to the U.S. because of his Russian citizenship.

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