Russia considered smuggling Julian Assange out of UK, report claims

Russian embassy in London denies plot to help WikiLeaks founder escape

Adam Forrest
Saturday 22 September 2018 13:29 BST
Alan Duncan calls Julian Assange a 'miserable little worm'

Russian officials reportedly held talks with associates of Julian Assange about helping him escape from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

The secret breakout plan involved smuggling the WikiLeaks founder out of the embassy using a diplomatic vehicle and moving him to another country, according to The Guardian.

Sources said Russia was one of the possible havens discussed for Mr Assange. The smuggling operation was provisionally set to take place on Christmas Eve in 2017, but was thought too risky and scrapped.

Russia’s embassy in London has denied diplomats had been involved in any such scheme.

“The embassy has never engaged either with Ecuadorian colleagues, or with anyone else, in discussions on any kind of Russia’s participation in ending Mr Assange’s stay within the diplomatic mission of Ecuador,” it stated on its website.

It has also emerged that Ecuador had tried to arrange a formal diplomatic post for Mr Assange in Russia, but efforts were abandoned after Britain refused to give him diplomatic immunity.

A letter by Ecuador’s foreign ministry to one of the country’s lawmakers revealed the plan for a “special designation” for Mr Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in Russia, according to Reuters.

The UK Foreign Office told the Ecuadorian authorities in December it did not accept Mr Assange as a diplomat. He could not, therefore, enjoy the “privileges and immunities under the Vienna Convention” that would allow him to leave the country.

The WikiLeaks founder has been in self-imposed confinement inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London for the past six years to avoid arrest by British authorities on charges of skipping bail. Ecuador granted him citizenship last year.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press obtained a 2010 letter it claimed was written by Mr Assange to the Russian embassy in London asking for a Russian visa.

WikiLeaks denied on Twitter that Mr Assange had ever applied for the visa.

In 2017, US intelligence agencies revealed they believed WikiLeaks was used as an intermediary by Russia to publish hacked emails from leading figures in the Democratic Party.

And in July this year, Special Counsel Robert Mueller said Russian hackers had sent Democratic Party emails to WikiLeaks.

The accusation was made as part of an indictment of a dozen Russian GRU military intelligence officers who allegedly hacked party servers.

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