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BBC: 'Traitor' description helped ex-SBU official avoid extradition from Serbia

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk November 15, 2023 2:57 PM 2 min read
President Volodymyr Zelensky gives his evening address on 31 March, 2022. (Zelenskiy Official / Telegram) 
This audio is created with AI assistance

President Volodymyr Zelensky's refence to ex-Security Service official Andrii Naumov being a "traitor" was taken into account when a Serbian court decided to refuse his extradition to Ukraine, the BBC's Ukraine Service reported on Nov. 15, citing court documents

The Court of Appeals in Nis has twice refused a Ukrainian extradition request concerning Naumov, the former head of the internal security department of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).

The last refusal, in October 2023, effectively closed the case, and pending any other unforeseen developments.

Zelensky said in a video address in March 2022, that Naumov was a "traitor" and stripped him of his rank as brigadier traitor.

The Serbian court took this into account when considering the extradition request, as "Naumov stated during court hearings that the charges against him in Ukraine are baseless and politically motivated," the BBC reported.

Zelensky calling him a "traitor" and stripping him of his rank without explicitly giving a reason for doing so were "taken into account as an argument in the refusal of extradition, "as well as Naumov's claims that he "fears for his life if he returns," the BBC said.

Naumov referenced a 2021 assassination attempt that was plotted by a fellow SBU officer, telling the court in the extradition hearings that "those involved in them have not yet been punished."

Naumov left the country on Feb. 23, 2022, just hours before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda reported.

He used several vans loaded with cash and jewels to leave the country, which went to Germany, and later Serbia, according to Ukrainska Pravda.

He had evacuated his family a few weeks earlier. In March, Ukrainian law enforcement opened an investigation against him on suspicion of treason and searched his property.

Naumov was then detained at the border between Serbia and North Macedonia on 7 June, 2022, claiming that he was travelling to Athens for a yacht fair.

The police found him with undeclared cash amounting to around 600,000 euros ($651,500), $120,000, and two emeralds, court documents obtained by the BBC Serbian Service show.

Naumov was convicted by the High Court of Nis on Sept. 29, 2023, on money laundering charges and sentenced to a year in a Serbian prison.

In Ukraine, however, he is a suspect in a separate case relating to abuse of power in an official position, fraud, and causing losses to the state of more than Hr 3.2 million ($87,000).

The BBC noted that given the fact that Naumov has been in a Serbian pre-trial detention center for more than a year, "he practically served his sentence and will soon be released," perhaps as soon as December.

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