(Reuters) – Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin said that more than 60 Russian “hostages” are serving prison sentences in the U.S., Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported on Tuesday.
In excerpts from an interview with RIA, Vershinin said: “The total number of Russian citizens, who have been in effect taken hostage, exceeds 60.”
Vershinin provided no evidence that the Russians’ sentences were politically motivated or otherwise unfair.
Earlier this month, the United States released convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who had been serving a 25-year sentence in a prisoner swap for Brittney Griner, an American basketball star jailed in Russia for drug offences.
U.S. media have reported that Russia refused to include Paul Whelan, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran convicted of espionage in 2020, in the exchange.