16 Jul 2018
AP — A Greek court agreed Friday to extradite a Russian cybercrime suspect to France, a decision the Russian government protested and which could further sour relations between the two countries after Greece expelled two Russian diplomats.
The court in the northern city of Thessaloniki ruled in favor of France’s request to take custody of Alexander Vinnik, a former bitcoin operator who was arrested in Greece last year on a U.S.-issued warrant.
Vinnik, 38, also is wanted on criminal charges in the United States and Russia.
The ruling was made a day after Greek authorities confirmed that two Russian diplomats were being expelled for allegedly providing protest funding in an attempt to keep neighbor Macedonia from joining NATO.
The Russian Foreign Ministry indicated it was considering reprisals.
“Several days after taking an unfriendly decision to expel Russian diplomats and to deny entry to several Russian citizens, they have adopted a decision to extradite Russian citizen Alexander Vinnik to France,” the ministry said in a statement issued Friday.
“It is obvious that Russia cannot leave these actions unanswered.”
Greece’s leftwing prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, repeatedly has supported efforts to improve ties between Russia and the European Union.
Tsipras invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to Greece two years ago.
But Russia and Greece are at odds over Macedonia’s goal to join NATO — a prospect that hinges on the small Balkan country resolving a longstanding name dispute with Greece.
Story notes: Vinnik has denied the charges leveled against him.
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