The Russian Foreign Ministry has denied media reports about the pending exchange of Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov, who was illegally convicted in Russia, for Russian nationals arrested and convicted in the U.S.
"I would like to draw attention to the reports, which were published in a number of media outlets, about the allegedly pending exchange of Oleh Sentsov, who was convicted in Russia for preparing a terrorist act, for Russian citizens detained in the United States. I would like to emphasize that we were surprised to receive such reports, and I say that there is no such an agreement. This is disinformation," Spokesperson for Russia's Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova told journalists, as reported by an UNIAN correspondent in the Russian Federation.
According to Zakharova, Russia demands an unconditional release of Kirill Vyshinsky, editor-in-chief of RIA Novosti Ukraine, who was arrested in Ukraine on high treason charges.
As UNIAN reported earlier, on September 30, Russia's Novaya Gazeta wrote that the main condition for the illegally convicted Sentsov's return to Ukraine is the extradition of arms dealer Viktor Bout and drug dealer Konstantin Yaroshenko convicted in the U.S. as well as that of alleged spy Maria Butina, who is now under arrest there.
This publication allegedly said a source close to the negotiations on the exchange of prisoners between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
Butina was arrested in the United States on July 18, 2018, on suspicion of working as a foreign agent without the required registration, conspiracy to work in a foreign government, and attempts to develop ties with individuals in the United States and infiltrate organizations that have influence on American politics. Butina's lawyers rejected the charges.
Yaroshenko was detained in Liberia and extradited to the United States in 2010, where he was charged with drug smuggling and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Bout was detained in Thailand in 2008, at Washington's request. In 2012, he was sentenced in the United States to 25 years in prison for arms trafficking and support for terrorist groups.
In March 2016, Russian media, citing sources, reported that the Kremlin was ready to exchange MP Nadezhda Savchenko, who was then detained in the Russian Federation, for Bout and Yaroshenko, but the White House refused such a deal.
On October 1, 2018, the Kremlin did not confirm that it offered to swap Sentsov and other Ukrainian political prisoners for Russian nationals detained in the United States.