Asked to comment on the possibility of Bout and Yaroshenko’s release by the RBC broadcaster's Samara affiliate, Ambassador Tefft issued a categorical denial, arguing that both Russian nationals’ guilt has been allegedly established in US court and that the two must serve their time.
Yaroshenko, sentenced to 20 years in prison for conspiring to import more than $100 million worth of cocaine into the United States, was arrested in Liberia in 2010 and was later extradited to the United States by Liberian authorities.
Bout, convicted on charges of conspiring to kill US nationals and conspiracy to sell weapons to a designated terrorist group (FARC guerillas) in Colombia, was extradited from Thailand to the United States and is now serving a 25 year sentence.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Monday that Moscow considered the swap a possibility under the Council of Europe's (CoE) Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. The United States is among 18 non-CoE states that are party to the convention.
Moscow maintains that Bout and Yaroshenko's arrests outside US territory are illegal.