Albania’s Ministry of Justice has approved a blogger’s extradition to Russia on espionage charges.
The Ministry made the dedication in response to demands for Russia, saying it had received “guarantees” from Russia that the blogger would not face political prosecution.
Igor Krasnov, the head of the Russian institution that gave the guarantees, is currently under EU and US sanctions for human rights violations.
The 33-year-old Svetlana Timofeeva is awaiting trial in Albania on separate espionage charges filed by Albanian prosecutors.
Timofeeva has defended herself saying she is a blogger, and is only interested in exploring abandoned Cold War-era buildings.
She has published two photo books with images from abandoned sites, and publishes images on her Instagram profile where she has more than 255,000 followers.
Last August, Timofeeva was arrested in Albania after police found her and two friends at a rundown weapons factory in Gramsh, south of Tirana. The site was once a factory for the production of AK-47 rifles.
Arrested alongside Timofeeva was a Russian and a Ukrainian friend.
Timofeeva vehemently denies spying on behalf of Russia. In a previous blog post, she said she had moved to Georgia after publicly criticising the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“The Ministry of Justice had administered the request for extradition of the above-mentioned subject, for whom, the General Prosecution of the Russian Federation… has guaranteed that the extradition request doesn’t aim to prosecute this persona for political, racial, religious, ethnicity or political views,” the Albanian ministry told reporters of Timofeeva’s planned extradition to Russia.
“We have forwarded the request to the General Prosecution as it has been foreseen by the Penal Procedural Code and the European Convention on Extradition,” it added.
The Russian request is currently being processed at the Court of Elbasan in central Albania. Timofeeva has requested that she not be extradited.
When asked by reporters whether Western sanctions imposed on Russia would affect its stance on the issue, the Ministry of Justice dismissed concerns by saying the current sanctions are limited to political and economic issues.
“Collaboration in the justice sector has no relation with the punitive measures, which are only political and economic,” said the ministry.
Erida Skendaj, director of Albania Helsinki Committee, called on the Ministry to be better informed about the situation before handling the request for Timofeeva’s extradition to Russia.
“There is a potential high risk that she will be politically persecuted, as has happened with other people,” Skendaj said.
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