The Ukrainian court has declined the request of U.S. attorneys for extradition of American Craig Lang. The man fought in Donbas, serving on the side of Ukraine's government forces. The U.S. government put hom on the wanted list for murder that he allegedly committed back home, and for participation in right-wing paramilitary groups - including the military wing of the Right Sector, the famous Ukrainian far-right organization. New York Times wrote that in the article.
"U.S. prosecutors call him a murderer. To Ukraine, he's an asylum seeker", says the headline of the story by Andrew Kramer.
According to him, the Ukrainian court's refusal to extradite Lang delivers a blow on the law enforcement agencies in the USA, which aim to cease the attempts of American citizens to side with right-wing paramilitary units for combat experience.
Craig A. Lang, the veteran of the U.S. Army born in North Carolina faced charges in his homeland, as he is a suspect in double homicide in Florida. His case turned a lot of public attention because the government fears that Americans will be joining ultranationalist groups in Ukraine and other hot spots.
Kramer quoted Heidi Beirich, director of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism; in the telephone interview, she said the following: “Just as we don’t want them in the American military, we don’t want them training to fight and kill in foreign militaries. We have enough violence in our own backyard to worry about.”
The U.S. government clearly shows it has intentions to focus on Ukrainian paramilitary units as one of the majopr centers for far-right extremists. This issue has been among the key topics of the U.S. foreign policy agenda after the attack on the Capitol Hill; as is known, far-right activists played major part in that incident.
"But the issue is seen quite differently in Ukraine, where right-wing militias are fighting on the side of the government in a war with Russian-backed separatists that has killed more than 13,000 people", writes Kramer. "Any suggestion that these groups are extremist risks playing into the hands of Russian propagandists, who have tried to label the war as one of Russian speakers resisting a “neo-fascist” government in Kyiv. In fact, far-right parties win only a tiny sliver of votes in Ukrainian elections".
The appeal court of Kyiv basically agreed with Lang's lawyers that in spite of charges with murderm he faced prosecution in the U.S. because of the Law about neutrality for his military service in Ukraine. This particular law is rarely used when it comes to military action in foreign wars. The Ukrainian court found that Lang had the right for a hearing as the asylum seeker.
"There can be no discrimination about a group of people that is based on race, religion, religious or ideological views", said Lang's lawyer Dmytro Morgun.
"While ending the extradition process, the ruling did not necessarily put Mr. Lang beyond the reach of American law, his lawyers said, noting that he could be deported to the United States if his asylum application fails. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, which is prosecuting him for the double murder, did not immediately return a request for comment", reads the story.
Lang, 30, gave an interview in the office of his lawyer in Kyiv. He claimed he does not support the far-right views. According to him, he was sent off the U.S. Army, as he left his post without permission from command. "Despite leaving the military under a cloud, he was welcomed by a prominent paramilitary group, Right Sector, when he arrived in Ukraine in 2015, with few questions asked. Debarking from a train in eastern Ukraine near the war zone, “someone handed me a rifle” right at the station, he said in the interview, and the next morning he was deployed to the front", Kramer wrote in his article.
Craig Lang was detained in Ukraine in August 2019; he never left the country since then.
Read the full story here.