Accused Russian Intelligence Officer Pleads not Guilty to US Smuggling Charges

REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
U.S. and Ukrainian flags are pictured prior to the start of the UUkraine Defense Consultative Group meeting hosted by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, at U.S. Airbase in Ramstein, Germany, April 26, 2022.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – An alleged Russian intelligence officer pleaded not guilty on Friday to U.S. charges of smuggling U.S.-origin electronics and ammunition to Russia to help its war against Ukraine.

Vadim Konoschenok, who was extradited on Thursday from Estonia, entered the plea at a hearing in federal court in Brooklyn.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Ramon Reyes ordered Konoschenok detained pending trial, after prosecutors called him a flight risk.

“No matter where you are in the world, if you violate U.S. export controls or evade U.S. sanctions, we will not rest until you face justice,” Breon Peace, the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, said in a statement.

Sabrina Shroff, a U.S.-based lawyer for Konoschenok, declined to comment.

The Russian embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

Konoschenok, 48, was detained by Estonian authorities in October 2022 while trying to cross into Russia carrying 35 types of semiconductors and electronic components, some of which were subject to U.S. export controls, prosecutors said.

He told co-conspirators in electronic communications that he charged a 10% fee for dealing in controlled items. “Can’t do less. Sanctions,” he wrote, according to prosecutors.

Konoschenok was initially charged last September, as U.S. authorities sought to ramp up enforcement of export controls and sanctions designed to hamper Moscow’s war effort.

His next scheduled court appearance is July 31.