Brazil has officially denied the extradition request made by the United States for the alleged Russian spy, Sergey Cherkasov. The decision was announced by the Brazilian Ministry of Justice and Public Security on Thursday.
Sergey Cherkasov was charged by the U.S. Justice Department in March on allegations of acting as an illegal agent for a Russian intelligence service during his two-year attendance at a graduate school in Washington.
The Ministry of Justice in Brazil cited that the U.S. request lacked sufficient grounds, particularly as Brazil’s Supreme Court had already approved Russia’s extradition request for Cherkasov back in April. Nevertheless, the plans to proceed with his extradition to Russia have currently been put on hold, as stated by the Brazilian Ministry of Justice. Russia, on the other hand, refutes the claim that Cherkasov is a spy and asserts that he is wanted in their country for narcotics trafficking.
Flávio Dino, the justice minister of Brazil, made an announcement via social media that Cherkasov would remain detained in Brazil for the time being.
According to Cherkasov’s lawyer, Paulo Ferreira, the extradition to Russia will only take place once all his ongoing cases in Brazil have been conclusively adjudicated. At the moment, Cherkasov’s defense team is seeking approval for him to serve the remainder of his sentence outside of prison, following a reduction in his prison term from 15 years to five years after the court dropped some charges against him.
The situation surrounding Cherkasov’s extradition has emerged amid escalating tensions between the United States and Russia, particularly due to the conflict in Ukraine and the contentious detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in Russia. Gershkovich was arrested shortly after the U.S. Justice Department revealed the charges against Cherkasov.
U.S. authorities have claimed that Cherkasov assumed a false identity in Brazil over a decade ago, acquiring a fraudulent birth certificate. Operating under the alias Victor Muller Ferreira, he allegedly participated in the Russian “illegals” program, which involves spies developing intricate cover stories and operating without diplomatic immunity. He managed to secure admission to Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies in Washington and obtained a U.S. visa by posing as a Brazilian student.
According to court documents, Cherkasov communicated messages regarding U.S. policy on Russia’s potential invasion of Ukraine to his handlers in late 2021. This included information gathered from discussions with experts and details from online forums and reports about Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine’s borders and potential U.S. responses.
Cherkasov encountered further legal trouble in early 2022 when he was denied entry to the Netherlands, where he had intended to begin an internship with the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Subsequently, he was arrested in Brazil on fraud charges.
The U.S. Justice Department has declined to comment on the recent developments surrounding Cherkasov’s extradition case.