Prague, Czech Republic – Alexander Franchetti, a Russian national who played a role in the events leading up to the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, was arrested yesterday by Czech police at Prague airport.
Ukrainian authorities have accused Franchetti of being the head of one of the paramilitary units that played a part in the annexation of Crimea by Russia seven years ago, and had issued an international warrant for his arrest.
The paramilitary group formed by Franchetti just days before the military annexation of Crimea, North Wind, was allegedly involved in taking control of gas pipelines and power lines on the peninsula.
Reports from two years ago highlighted that Franchetti, who himself admitted to having cooperated with the Russian navy in a video posted on YouTube, was living alternatively between Prague and Crimea.
“The detention was the result of coordinated actions of Ukrainian and Czech law enforcement agencies to bring Alexander Franchetti to justice for a number of crime against our state, including the participation in the Russian occupation of Crimea,” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko told RFE/RL.
Holder of a permanent residence permit in the Czech Republic since 2000, he was working as a fitness coach in Prague.
Russian diplomats have asked Czech authorities for additional details regarding the circumstances of the arrest, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Prague said.
“The Czech police have confirmed that Russian citizen Alexander Franchetti was detained at Prague airport,” embassy press secretary Nikolai Bryakin said. “An officer of the Russian embassy’s consular department is on his way to the airport to provide necessary consular assistance.”
The Kremlin has not commented on the matter at the time of writing, but the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee asked for a thorough investigation, hinting at the “misuse of international legal mechanisms aimed at politically motivated persecution.”
The Ukrainian government confirmed on Monday it had asked the Czech Republic for the extradition of Franchetti.