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Back to Massachusetts Businessman responsible for Kremlin’s media-monitoring system is now jailed in Switzerland and awaiting extradition to U.S.

Source: Meduza

Earlier this year, the Swiss authorities arrested a Russian national who faces insider-trading criminal charges in the United States. Vladislav Klyushin has now exhausted his legal options in Switzerland and could find himself extradited to Massachusetts soon. Back home in Russia, Klyushin owns a media-metrics business with several lucrative government contracts, including agreements to monitor the Internet for public attitudes about political issues. Meduza examines how one of the Kremlin’s media whizzes ended up behind bars in the West.

At the request of the United States, Swiss police arrested Vladislav Klyushin this March, but the story didn’t appear in the news until the local website Gotham City reported it on June 8, 2021, citing materials filed with Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court and Supreme Court. In these documents, lawyers representing the defendant (identified by the pseudonym “A.A.”) challenged their client’s arrest and planned extradition.

Gotham City editor François Pilet confirmed to Meduza that the defendant is in fact Vladislav Klyushin. He says he discovered the man’s real name by visiting the clerk’s office for the Supreme Court in Lausanne, where journalists can access court records in full.

In Russia, Klyushin owns the “M13” LLC, a media-metrics company that sells Internet monitoring services to the Kremlin, various federal ministries, and other government agencies. M13’s director, Alexander Badikov, did not respond to Meduza’s questions, but a source close to the business verified Klyushin’s arrest in Switzerland. 

In 2020 alone, M13 won state contracts worth 355 million rubles ($4.9 million). The company’s main product is the “Katyusha” media monitoring system, which the Kremlin has used since 2016 (after the FSB declined to renew a similar contract with “Medialogia,” according to the newspaper Vedomosti). 

In January 2021, M13 won another government deal to monitor media outlets, instant messengers, and social networks in Russia. Unlike past agreements, the new contract tasks M13 with analyzing messages related to election processes, political parties, anti-Kremlin opposition groups, and public opinion about current events nationally. Open Russia says this one deal with the Digital Development, Communications, and Mass Media Ministry is worth a whopping 295 million rubles ($4.1 million).

Background on Russian media monitoring

The information nation A Kremlin-managed research center is selling services that can deanonymize anyone in Russia

Background on Russian media monitoring

The information nation A Kremlin-managed research center is selling services that can deanonymize anyone in Russia

According to Proekt and other news outlets, Vladislav Klyushin also has connections to the popular Telegram channel Nezygar. Klyushin denies these reports and even sued Proekt journalists Mikhail Rubin and Roman Badanin for defamation, winning an appeal in the Moscow City Court and forcing the website to issue a retraction

According to Swiss court records, police arrested Klyushin in the Canton of Valais in March 2021 at the request of the U.S. Justice Department. Days earlier, the District Court of Massachusetts ordered Klyushin’s apprehension. The documents available in Switzerland do not specify the charges against Klyushin in the United States, but his lawyers maintain their client’s innocence. On June 8, months after Klyushin’s arrest, the Swiss Justice Ministry’s spokeswoman confirmed to the AFP that he stands accused of “running insider trading in the tens of millions [of dollars] with several accomplices.” The newspaper Tages-Anzeiger and the Swiss Justice Ministry verified these reports to Meduza.

Klyushin has already exhausted his two chances to challenge his extradition to America, losing first in federal criminal court and then in the Swiss Supreme Court. In the first appeal, his lawyers argued that the case against him is politically motivated. When the matter came before the Supreme Court, his attorneys said M13 “plays a strategically important role for the Russian government.”

The lawsuits failed despite Klyushin’s offer to post a bail of 1.5 million Swiss francs ($1.7 million) — a sum of money he claimed was equal to the value of all his liquid assets and at least 40 percent of everything he owns. In its refusal to grant bail, however, the Swiss Federal Criminal Court determined that this amount is closer to Klyushin’s annual income. Today, Vladislav Klyushin is still jailed in the city of Sion, where he was arrested in March.

Russian diplomats say they are monitoring the situation in Switzerland. In the past, the Foreign Ministry has warned Russian citizens about the dangers of extradition to the United States “on spurious charges.” Klyuhsin’s lawyer told Russia Today that Washington is targeting his client for political reasons “due to the nature of his business and his contacts [with the Russian government].”

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Story by Alexey Kovalev

Translation by Kevin Rothrock

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