By STEVEN FERDINANDBERGGERThe Kremlin has been pushing for the release of a German citizen, a former senior member of the Kremlin’s elite spy agency, who was arrested in Moscow last year and faces up to six years in prison for his role in spying on political opponents.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel to grant the release on humanitarian grounds, but a German government source said on Friday the Kremlin was looking for a way out of the extradition agreement that was signed last year.
Russia and Germany have signed an extradition treaty after the former spy chief was jailed in Russia for seven years in 2016.
It is the first time a German politician has requested an extradition deal.
In the end, the two countries settled on a one-year suspension period for the extradition process, which will last until December 2020, a spokeswoman for Merkel’s office told Reuters.
“The extradition agreement is not being reviewed anymore.
That is our position,” a spokeswoman said.
The source said Merkel had been in touch with Putin about the situation and had decided to agree to the extension.
The former head of the Russian intelligence service has long maintained that he is innocent of spying charges.
Germany’s government has repeatedly denied accusations of espionage and has said it does not extradite suspects from other countries.
It has also rejected Moscow’s assertions that the German politician, Alexander Bortnikov, had helped spy on German politicians.
German prosecutors have charged Bortnikov with aiding a foreign intelligence service, which is banned in Germany.
He denies the allegations.
Germany and Russia signed a bilateral extradition treaty in 2015, after Bortniches arrest, but the German government said the extradition deal did not include the Russian spy chief.
The German court upheld the treaty in March.
Russia has repeatedly refused to extradite Bortnickov, and it has accused Germany of violating the treaty by allowing the former intelligence chief to stay in Russia after his release.
A German court last month upheld the extradition order, but it ruled the two sides could not continue to negotiate on it.
The two countries have been working on a new extradition treaty, but neither side is ready to sign it, the spokeswoman said on Thursday.
Merkel, who has been the target of criticism from Berlin for her handling of the spying scandal, is expected to sign a new bilateral extradition agreement with Russia in December, the source said.
Germany is seeking Bortnizov’s extradition for his part in the 2016 investigation of suspected Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.