Konstantin Yaroshenko went from secret deals in Liberia to a Connecticut prison.
When a Russian attorney for Paul Whelan, the American arrested in Moscow on espionage charges, suggested to ABC News that Whelan could be traded for a Russian imprisoned in America, he floated three names for a possible swap.
There was Maria Butina, the gun rights activist who recently pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as a foreign agent. There was Viktor Bout, the infamous gun-runner who inspired the 2005 Hollywood film “Lord of War.”
And there was Konstantin Yaroshenko, an alleged smuggler whose story of international intrigue has garnered relatively little attention from the western media. Yet Yaroshenko’s detention in Connecticut is very much on the minds of Russian government officials who have followed his case.
Russian Commissioner for Human Rights Tatyana Moskalkova officially requested that President Donald Trump pardon Yaroshenko in May 2017, but she said a year later that the U.S. government had denied the request. In August, Moskalkova reportedly said that she hoped Trump would find a way to swap Yaroshenko for a U.S. citizen jailed in Russia.
Before Whelan’s arrest in December, there was talk that perhaps Yaroshenko would be traded for detained Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. When U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about Senstov’s case in August 2018, Lavrov responded by bringing up Yaroshenko and Bout.