Russian Foreign Ministry demands singer Leps explanation from U.S.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has asked the U.S. authorities to clarify the situation concerning Russian pop singer Grigory Leps, who was denied entry to the United States and whose bank accounts were frozen.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has asked the U.S. authorities to clarify the situation concerning Russian pop singer Grigory Leps, who was denied entry to the United States and whose bank accounts were frozen.

"We have requested an additional explanation from the American side about why such serious accusations were brought up," the ministry's envoy for human rights, democracy and the rule of law Konstantin Dolgov said at a session of the State Duma's committee for media policy, information technologies and communications on Friday.

Apart from the situation with Leps, the committee meeting also addressed other instances that were described by Russian parliamentarians as violations of Russian citizens' rights abroad. In 1999, Russia and the U.S. signed a bilateral agreement on mutual legal aid, Dolgov said.

"It is a very serious agreement. It says that if law enforcement agencies, in this case U.S. agencies, have any complaints about Russian citizens, they can and should enact this agreement, contact us and provide Russian services with exhaustive information able to confirm those accusations," he said.

This is how such issues should be tackled normally, but this agreement has not been obeyed in the overwhelming majority of instances, especially in the past few years, he said.

Americans tend to apply this document selectively, to situations it suits them, Dolgov said. "They prefer acting in a different way: they immediately bring up very serious accusations, as they did in the case of Leps and other Russian citizens," Dolgov said.

The fact that Russian citizens are arrested on the territory of third countries following U.S. requests is particularly troubling, Dolgov said. The problem is that the United States has bilateral extradition agreements with the overwhelming majority of countries, but it has refused to sign such an accord with Russia, he said. "We have offered this more than once," Dolgov said.

On October 31, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on a number of persons suspected of involvement with the criminal syndicate Brother's Circle.

The U.S. Treasury Department said on October 31 that Artur Badalyan, Grigory Lepsveridze (a singer known as Grigory Leps), Vadim Lyalin, Sergei Moskalenko, Yakov Rybalkin and Igor Shlykov had been blacklisted on suspicion of being members of the Brother's Circle Eurasian criminal syndicate.

The persons listed are suspected of maintaining contact with a Vladislav Leontyev and Gafur Rakhimov, believed to be influential members of criminal groups, and blacklisted by the United States in February 2012.

Leps is a cash courier on Leontyev's behalf, according to the U.S. authorities. Leps's producer declined to comment, describing the accusations as absurd.

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