The U.S. Embassy in Moscow on Thursday confirmed that its diplomats have not been granted access to detained U.S. national Michael Calvey a week after the founder of the Baring Vostok investment fund group was detained in the Russian capital.
Just hours before the embassy announcement, Russian state prosecutors formally indicted the investor.
The U.S. Embassy said in a statement it had asked multiple times to visit Calvey but had not received permission, which it said flouted consular rules between the two countries.
“We insist on access now,” the statement said.
On Wednesday, the head of a U.S.-Russian trade organization told VOA that Calvey, who had already been held in a Moscow pre-trial detention center for six days, had been meeting with his lawyers but had not yet had consular access.
“I’ve spoken to [Calvey’s] colleagues, but not him, since the detention,” U.S. national Alexis O. Rodzianko, president of the Moscow-based American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, told VOA on Tuesday.
Rodzianko, who had just left discussions about Calvey’s detention with various Russian, U.S., and European members of Moscow’s financial community, said, “I understand [Calvey] has met with his lawyers. I understand that he has not yet had consular contact — that’s as of lunchtime today.”
According to terms of the Vienna Convention, consular access must be provided within a 72-hour window from the time of arrest, meaning that a member of the U.S. government should have visited Calvey by now.
On Wednesday, a State Department spokesman declined to confirm Rodzianko’s assertion, citing privacy concerns, but seemed to indicate that the U.S. Embassy was still seeking access to the businessman.
“We are aware that a U.S. citizen was arrested on Feb. 14, 2019, in Russia,” said the spokesperson, who spoke on condition of not being identified. “The U.S. Embassy in Moscow is aware of the case and will be following it closely, and will provide all appropriate consular assistance. We have no higher priority than the protection of U.S. citizens abroad.”
Calvey is the second American to face prosecution in Russia since late December, when Paul Whelan, a former Marine, was jailed on accusations of spying. Russia announced Whelan’s detention on Dec. 31, some 24 hours after his arrest.
Whelan’s family sharply criticized Russia’s handling of the announcement, noting that security officials divulged his arrest hours into the start of New Year’s Eve, which in Russia marks the start of a weeklong national holiday. Delaying the announcement, they said, drastically decreased Whelan’s chances of securing access to legal and consular resources within the mandated 72-hour window.
The U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman Jr., was finally permitted to meet with Whelan six days after the arrest.
Calvey has been charged with fraud stemming from a protracted dispute with shareholders of Vostochny Bank, of which Baring Vostok owns 52.5 percent. He was detained along with five others, including three Baring Vostok employees, according to the Russian state news agency, RIA Novosty.
A coalition of lobby groups representing European businesses active in Russia has issued a joint statement expressing concerns about the arrest of Calvey and his colleagues.
“The detention of Baring Vostok’s top management has sent shock waves through the country’s business community and can potentially seriously damage the investment climate and attractiveness of Russia for foreign direct investments,” it said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to make a passing reference to Calvey’s case during his annual State of the Nation address to the federal assembly on Wednesday.
“Good faith business shouldn’t feel threatened by the law or constantly feel the risk of criminal or even administrative punishment,” Putin said.
If convicted, Calvey faces up to 10 years in a Russian prison.