The Czech Republic has extradited the Russian hacker Yevgeniy Nikulin to the US where the 29-year-old is suspected of data theft, angering Moscow who was also seeking his extradition to face similar, but lesser, charges there.
Yevgeniy Nikulin, whose asylum application in the Czech Republic was refused, is facing thirty years in prison in the United States where he is wanted for hacking the LinkedIn and Formspring social networks and the storage application Dropbox. Moreover the FBI also suspects Nikulin of involvement in Russia’s alleged efforts to manipulate the US presidential election.
While Washington has welcomed the Czech Republic’s decision, Moscow, where he is wanted for online fraud amounting to 3,000 euros in value has criticised Prague saying that the decision would have a bearing on the diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Explaining the government’s decision to extradite Nikulin to the US rather than Russia, the Czech Minister for Justice, Robert Pelikan, said: “In the case of these competing queries, we must compare the importance of the charges. Those made by the US are much worse. At the same time, the United States issued a warrant for his arrest, while Russia only made their claim after he was detained.”
The tug of war between Russia and the US over Nikulin played out within the Czech government also, with President Milos Zeman, known for his pro-Russian stance, expressing his preference for Nikulin to be extradited to Moscow.
The decision to hand him over to the US authorities instead has been seen as a victory for the pro-Western camp in the Czech government.
Nikulin’s extradition to the US has poured more cold water on Czech-Russian relations which were already strained following Prague’s decision to expel three Russian diplomats in response to Moscow’s alleged involvement in the Skripal poisoning case in the UK.