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Alleged Russian Hacker Nikulin Pleads Not Guilty After Extradition To U.S.

March 30, 2018

A Russian hacker who allegedly stole data and is wanted by both Washington and Moscow has pleaded not guilty to the charges at a court in San Francisco after being extradited to the United States from the Czech Republic.

Yevgeny Nikulin is accused of hacking big Internet companies including LinkedIn and Dropbox in 2012 and 2013. In the United States, he faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted on charges that include computer intrusion and identity theft.

But his case became an international tug-of-war when Russia made a rival extradition request shortly after the United States put forward its request. In Russia, Nikulin is wanted for alleged involvement in an online theft of about $2,000 in 2009.

"In all, Nikulin is charged with three counts of computer intrusion; two counts of intentional transmission of information, code, or command causing damage to a protected computer; two counts of aggravated identity theft; one count of trafficking in unauthorized access devices; and one count of conspiracy," the indictment released by the Department of Justice said.

Nikulin's court hearing came hours after Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikan made the decision to extradite him after the country's top court said it rejected a last-minute appeal from the Russian.

During a visit to the Czech Republic, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said on March 27 in Prague that "we have every reason to believe and expect that Mr. Nikulin will be extradited to America."

In an interview with RFE/RL in Prague on March 26, Ryan said that the "case for extraditing [Nikulin] to America versus Russia is extremely clear."

Ryan, who met with Prime Minister Andrej Babis and other Czech officials during his visit, told RFE/RL that he would raise the issue in those talks.

"He did violate our laws, he did hack these companies.... So the extradition claim is very legitimate," he said. "And I just expect that the Czech system will go through its process, and at the end of that process, I am hopeful and expecting that he'll be extradited."

The tug-of-war over Nikulin had led to some friction in the Czech government.

Babis has said Nikulin should be extradited to the United States. But Pelikan had said that President Milos Zeman -- known for his relatively pro-Kremlin views -- has advocated handing the suspected hacker over to Russia.

Nikulin's lawyer said his client claimed the FBI is trying to link him to the hacking of the Democratic Party's servers during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign.

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