Washington — Brazil has denied the United States'alleged Russian spy Sergey Cherkasov, the Brazilian Ministry of Justice and Public Security said Thursday.
The Justice DepartmentCherkasov in March with acting as an illegal agent of a Russian intelligence service while he attended graduate school for two years in Washington.
The Ministry of Justice said the U.S. request was considered unfounded since Brazil's Supreme Court had already approved Russia's extradition request in April. But plans to move forward with his extradition to Russia have been suspended, the Ministry of Justice said. Russia, which claims Cherkasov is not a spy, says he is wanted there for narcotics trafficking.
Brazil's justice minister, Flávio Dino, said in a social media post that Cherkasov will remain imprisoned in Brazil for now.
Cherkasov's extradition to Russia "will only be executed after the final judgment of all his cases here in Brazil," his lawyer, Paulo Ferreira, told CBS News on Friday.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
The wrangling over Cherkasov's extradition comes amid increasing tensions between the U.S. and Russia over the war in Ukraine and the wrongful detention of, who was arrested in Russia days after the Justice Department unveiled the charges against Cherkasov.
U.S. authorities allege Cherkasov created a false identity in Brazil more than a decade ago after obtaining a fraudulent birth certificate. Living under the alias Victor Muller Ferreira, he was allegedly part of the Russian "illegals" program, in which spies spend years developing cover stories and are not protected by diplomatic immunity.
Posing as a Brazilian student, he was admitted into Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies in Washington and received a U.S. visa.
He sent messages about U.S. policy on Russia's potential invasion of Ukraine to his handlers near the end of 2021, including details on his conversations with experts and information he had gleaned from online forums or reports about Russia's military buildup near Ukraine's border and how the U.S. might respond, according to court documents.
In early 2022, Cherkasov was refused entry to the Netherlands as he was set to begin an internship with the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He was arrested days later in Brazil for fraud.
Cherkasov's lawyer said his prison sentence was reduced from 15 years to five years this week after the court agreed to drop some of the charges against him. His lawyers are also seeking approval for Cherkasov to serve the remainder of his sentence outside of prison.
— Rob Legare contributed reporting.
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