First arrest of the Kremlin hacker?

Yesterday (8th June)  Gotham City media outlet reported that on 21 March Russian businessman Vladislav Klyushin was arrested in Switzerland at the request of the American authorities – writes James Wilson.

It took the US authorities only 24 hours to secure his arrest. Shortly afterwards, Ingrid Raiser, a spokeswoman for the Federal Office of Justice, told Agence France-Presse that “Russian citizen Vladislav Klyushin was arrested in the canton of Valais on 21 March and taken into custody” pending a court decision on his extradition.

The US Embassy in Berne on 19 April requested the extradition of Mr. Klyushin, who was “accused of insider trading amounting to tens of millions, along with other accomplices,” said Ms. Raiser.

According to sources in the Federal Department of Justice, Ivan Yermakov who was previously referred to in the United States as working for the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff is accused of insider trading together with Vladislav Klyushin.

In this case, Klyushin’s proximity to the Kremlin and his company M13’s specialisation in computer technology may indicate his direct participation in attempts to interfere in the 2016 American elections.

Vladislav Klyushin is close to the Kremlin, namely to the first deputy head of the Russian presidential administration Alexei Gromov, who is responsible for the Kremlin’s control of the media.

Klyushin is seen as the creator of the powerful “Katyusha” media monitoring system used by the Russian authorities. According to Gotham City, last January the Kremlin signed a US$ 4 million contract with M13, owned by Vladislav Klyushin, to use its software to “analyse messages about electoral processes, political parties and non-systemic opposition.”

Senior Russian presidential administration official Alexei Gromov, has been under European sanctions since 2014 in connection with the Russian invasion of Crimea. He became the first target of the new round of sanctions announced by the US Treasury Department in April 2021, for “trying to exacerbate tensions in the United States by discrediting the American electoral process in 2020.” This political factor may well serve as a valid reason for the arrest of Mr. Klyushin.

In the meanwhile, as Gotham City reports, Vladislav Klyushin says that, along with his company, he plays “an important strategic role for the Russian government”, and that these US actions are only aimed to “get him, because he has secret information about Russia, which the requesting state values”.

But the nature of this secret information he might have, and whether it is connected to the political activity of the “Russian hackers” group outside of Russia — all this is still unknown. In any case, if Vladislav Klyushin’s involvement in the hacker attacks is confirmed, then the situation with his arrest and possible extradition to the United States has a prominent political subtext, since we are talking about Russia’s attempts to influence the internal political situation of its foreign opponents. It is also possible that his testimony in court could later become a trump card in the hands of the current American administration.

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