Israeli held in Armenia in case family says is political payback by Putin

Yan Andrayev, 56, a resident of Holon and a former mayor of a small Russian town nearly 200 miles from Moscow, reportedly awaits extradition to Russia

Yan Andrayev (Facebook)
Yan Andrayev (Facebook)

An Israeli-Russian father of two has been jailed in Armenia for the past two months while awaiting extradition to Russia in a case his family said was politically motivated.

The 56-year-old Holon resident, Yan Andrayev, is being held in a Yerevan prison under tough conditions, according to a report this week by Israeli news site Mako, which also published photos of the imprisoned man.

According to the report, Andrayev had in the past served as the mayor of a small Russian town called Tutayev, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) northeast of Moscow. He had been in the post for eight years when Russian President Vladimir Putin sought his political support during one of his presidential campaigns, a request he said he declined. The report did not say when Andrayev was mayor of the town.

Andrayev and his family said the refusal cost him dearly as accusations against him started mounting. His daughter, Karine, told the Israeli site that “Putin made sure to set him up as he did his opponents. He targeted him, claimed that he attacked a police officer, and then produced three more cases of corruption and money [fraud].”

Andrayev’s family said he was eventually acquitted of the cases and returned to his mayoral position. Meanwhile, his family members immigrated to Israel amid fears they could be harmed, while he remained behind. During a visit to Israel in 2011, Andrayev discovered that Russia was seeking his extradition on a case against him for corruption and fraud, according to the family.

Israel refused the Russian extradition request, according to the report, and Andrayev remained in the country and gained Israeli citizenship.

Night in Yerevan, Armenia. (Aramyan via iStock by Getty Images)

Two months ago, Andrayev traveled to Yerevan on what he thought would be a regular visit but was arrested at the airport. Karine said her father “did not think there would be a problem going to Armenia on an Israeli passport. He checked.” She said he had “convinced Interpol that this was political persecution and his name was removed from their system.”

The family hired local lawyers to defend Andrayev, who is set to appear before a judge next week, according to the report. “Our father is in a very difficult [situation]. He knows that he will be in Russian prisons. We’ve turned to the Foreign Ministry and the ministers but nothing has been done in the meantime,” said the daughter.

The Foreign Ministry told the news site it was in touch with the family.

According to statistics issued by Channel 12 in November, 303 Israelis are currently jailed or detained abroad.

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