A Russian governor’s son who busted out of house arrest in Italy last week had help from a whole team of accomplices that probably involved Russia’s security services, Italian investigators say.
The “surgical” nature of the escape operation and the fact that it was “organized down to the smallest detail” suggest it was carried out by professional spooks, according to Corriere della Sera.
Artyom Uss, the son of Krasnoyarsk region Governor Alexander Uss, broke off his ankle monitor and fled house arrest in Milan last week after a court ruled in favor of extraditing him to the U.S., where he faces federal charges and up to 30 years in prison. Uss is accused of using a company he owns with one of his alleged accomplices to buy up U.S. military technologies that ultimately wound up in the hands of the Russian military in Ukraine.
Investigators in Italy now say Uss was spotted getting into a “small car” driven by an unknown man who was waiting for him outside his apartment that day. He is thought to have then switched cars, possibly multiple times, before investigators suspect he used forged documents to take a private plane out of the country, according to La Repubblica, which cited sources close to the investigation.
Uss’s wife, Maria Yagodina, has also reportedly come under scrutiny after flying back to Russia from Italy on the same day the court ruled on her husband’s extradition to the U.S.
Asked whether she knew about her husband’s escape, she told the Regnum news agency she didn’t want to discuss the matter.
Investigators are now reportedly poring over Uss’s phone records in the hopes of tracking down his network of accomplices.
In response to the 40-year-old entrepreneur becoming an international fugitive, Russian officials have resorted to their trademark trolling, playing dumb about Uss’ “disappearance” and refusing to describe it as an escape.
“I don’t know his location, nor do I know the details of what happened. According to Artyom, the apartment he was located in on house arrest was very closely guarded by the Carabinieri. They even visited him several times at night, so it’s completely unclear to me how he could disappear from there,” his father, Governor Alexander Uss, told Russian media.
Russia’s Consulate General in Milan, meanwhile, objected to the use of the term “fled” to describe Uss’s actions, saying he had simply “left his place of detention.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has demanded Uss be returned home, claiming the charges against him are part of a political witch hunt. But shortly after news broke that Uss had been detained in Italy, a court in Moscow issued an arrest warrant for him accusing him of money laundering.
Uss had asked to be extradited back to Russia before his escape.
In a strange twist, even as an international manhunt is underway for his son, the Krasnoyarsk region governor was awarded a medal by the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday for his “contribution to international cooperation.”
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