The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday that American authorities had detained Dmitry Makarenko in the Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth in the Pacific Ocean, on December 29 and had moved him to Florida.
“Makarenko, born in 1979, has arrived on Saipan Island with his wife, underage children and elderly parents. He was detained by FBI personnel at the airport right after his arrival,” the Russian ministry said.
According to US authorities, cited by RT, the Russian national was taken into police custody on an indictment filed in the Southern District of Florida Court back in June 2017, Presstv reported.
The indictment accuses Makarenko, reportedly from the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok, and his associate Vladimir Nevidomy, a resident of Florida and owner of Florida-based Primex Group Inc., of purportedly trying to move grade equipment, such as night-vision rifle scopes and ammunition primers, to Russia between April and November 2013.
Makarenko, who first appeared before the court on Monday, has been indicted on eight counts and is facing a 45-year prison sentence if found guilty.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in its statement that the American side breached “the bilateral Consular Convention” by not informing Moscow of the detention, saying the ministry learned of Makarenko’s arrest through his relatives.
On Monday, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) announced that it had detained Paul Whelan, an American ex-marine, in the capital Moscow three days earlier over espionage charges.
Whelan is 48 and served in the US Marine Corps Reserves from May 10, 1994 to December 2, 2008, He lives in Novi, Michigan.
The FSB has already opened a criminal case against the American national but it has not yet given any details of his suspected espionage activities. Spying can carry a prison sentence of between 10 and 20 years under Russian law.
Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Russian news agency TASS that “the US law enforcement officials are continuing their hunt on Russian citizens.” His comments came shortly after the ministry’s announcement.
According to a report by RT, Makarenko’s detention is the latest in a series of arrests by US authorities of Russian citizens.
Last month, the Russian Embassy in Finland announced that Mira Terada was arrested by Finnish police on an Interpol warrant initiated by Washington. The Russian national was accused of engaging in alleged drug trafficking and money-laundering activities during her brief stay in the US between 2013 and 2016.
In July last year, gun-rights advocate Maria Butina, also a Russian citizen, was arrested for failure to register as a foreign agent while living in the US, and now faces charges that could put her behind bars for five years.
The Moscow-Washington relations are at its worst since the conclusion of the Cold War era.
The ties soured in 2014, when the Crimean Peninsula voted in favor of joining the Russian Federation. The allies have ever since slapped multiple rounds of sanctions targeting Moscow and arrested manyRussian individuals for “espionage.”
Since late 2016, US spying agencies have also been accusing Russia of meddling in the American presidential election in favor of incumbent President Donald Trump, through running a purported massive secret social media trolling and targeted messaging operation, an allegation Moscow strongly denied.
The US has imposed a series of unilateral sanctions against Moscow over the claims.