Brazilian authorities have declined a US request to extradite an alleged Russian spy, saying that he would eventually be sent to Russia instead.
Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov is accused of entering the US under a false identity to spy on Americans in the lead up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a statement on Thursday, Brazil’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security said that Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court approved on March 17 an application to extradite Cherkasov to Russia, where he is accused of “drug trafficking,” according to Russian state-run news agency TASS.
Russia’s request was made before the US extradition request, the Brazilian statement emphasized.
Cherkasov entered the United States in 2018 under the guise of attending graduate school in Washington, DC, the US Justice Department alleges.
He allegedly operated under the alias Victor Muller Ferreira after establishing the fake identity in Brazil, according to US prosecutors handling the case. Upon his return to Brazil in 2022, Brazilian authorities arrested him with identity theft and fraud.
While Russia’s extradition request for Cherkasov has been approved, he can only be extradited to Russia after completing his jail term in Brazil for a forgery conviction.
TASS reports that Cherkasov was sentenced by a court in Brazil in July 2022, to 15 years in prison for the fraud, which was reduced to five years and two months on appeal.
The Biden administration has been searching for high value Russian nationals that could entice Moscow to release two Americans that the White House considers wrongfully detained, Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, CNN previously reported in May, after speaking to three sources familiar with the matter.
The DOJ accused Cherkasov of working for Russia’s military intelligence service. It’s conceivable that if held in US custody he could become a suitable candidate for a prisoner swap with Russia