21:55 GMT27 January 2020
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    BERLIN (Sputnik) - Russian citizen Andrei Kovalchuk, the suspected organizer of the attempt to smuggle drugs from Argentina to Russia, has been arrested and will be kept in custody until the decision regarding his extradition, press attache of the Russian Embassy in Germany Denis Mikerin said Friday.

    "Arrested and will remain in custody until an extradition decision," Mikerin told reporters answering the respective question about Kovalchuk.

    Earlier in the day, a spokesperson of the Prosecutor General's Office in Berlin told Sputnik that Kovalchuk was detained upon Moscow's request and is facing charges of organizing criminal group that was engaged in cocaine trafficking.

    Andrei Kovalchuk, the suspected organizer of the attempt to smuggle drugs from Argentina to Russia, has never worked in the Russian Foreign Ministry or in the embassy, the ministry's spokeswoman said Friday.

    "We have thoroughly looked through all the records. We have spoken to anyone, to the representatives of the personnel department, with the leadership, with everyone. We have look through all the old papers. Kovalchuk has never worked in the [Russian] Foreign Ministry or in the embassy," Maria Zakharova told the Govorit Moskva radio.

    The senior Russian diplomat also called on the media outlets that had spread the information about the alleged work of Kovalchuk in the ministry to refute this information officially.

    In February, the security forces of Russia and Argentina thwarted a shipment of 389 kilograms (857 pounds) of cocaine to Moscow as part of a joint operation that had started in 2016, when the Russian Embassy in Argentina found several bags with cocaine in one of its buildings.

    Russian diplomats alerted Argentinean police about the find. Earlier in the day, Kovalchuk's lawyer said that his defendant, who had been previously put on the international wanted list by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), was detained in Germany. Several media outlets reported that Kovalchuk was a former technical staff member at the Russian embassy.

    A group of people, namely Vladimir Kalmykov, Ishtimir Khudzhamov and Ali Abyanov, have been detained in Moscow on charges of drug-related activities within the drug smuggling case. The decision about the detention of these three people was made in December, however, this information has been made public only after the revelations made by the authorities of Russia and Argentina. Kovalchuk is suspected of uniting these people in an organized criminal group.

    On Wednesday, Kovalchuk's lawyer told Sputnik that the suspect called the situation "a provocation" organized by the Argentinian security services that were in close contact with their US counterparts.


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    drugs, cocaine, arrest, Andrei Kovalchuk, Russia, Argentina, Germany
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