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23 September 2021

Russian extradition - is it a one way street?

3 mins

It has been reported this week that a third suspect has been charged with the poisoning of Sergie and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in 2018.

This means that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have concluded there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of a conviction against the three accused. Scotland Yard state they are all members of Russia’s GRU spy agency, and very dangerous individuals.

But what impact will this have in reality? Will they ever be tried in the UK? The simple answer is no, as long as they stay in Russia, unless there is a dramatic change in law and politics in Russia, or a diplomatic breakthrough which is highly unlikely. Russia do not extradite their own nationals, therefore the UK government accepts that issuing any formal extradition request is futile.

The government has confirmed that Interpol Red Notices are in place for two of the accused, and another has been applied for. This means that if the three accused travel anywhere outside the Russian Federation, they are at risk of arrest and extradition to the UK.

The situation with UK-Russian extradition is different. Russia is classed as a Category 2 territory in the Extradition Act 2003, and the UK does extradite its own nationals. Therefore, extradition from the UK to Russia, even of its own nationals, can successfully take place as long as there are no bars to extradition. That said, extradition to Russia from the UK has become increasingly rare due to grave concerns about the ability to have a fair trial, especially when so many Russian extradition requests are politically motivated, and those imprisoned are kept in appalling prison conditions, which can amount to ill treatment and torture. 

Despite the fact that many Russian extradition requests fail and the UK is unable to bring the Skripal accused to justice, extradition requests are still made by the Russian Federation, and UK arrests and extradition proceedings continue with the CPS acting as agents for the Russian Federation. Political and economic/commercial changes in Russia can mean that when an individual is living comfortably and safely in the UK, this can suddenly change overnight and urgent immigration and extradition advice may be required. The number of extradition requests have certainly reduced in recent years, especially since the successful prison condition cases, but it is still very much a one way street with Russian requests as far as Russian extradition is concerned.

Our criminal defence and extradition lawyers are highly experienced in defending individuals who are facing extradition. Find out more about our services here.

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