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Ukraine court extends arrest of US combat veteran wanted over Florida killings

A gavel cracks down. (Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid/U.S. Air Force)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A Ukrainian court has extended by 60 days the arrest of a U.S. combat veteran who fought in the Donbas conflict and who is wanted in the United States on charges related to a double homicide.

On December 5, the Vinnytsya City Court denied Craig Lang’s motion to be released under house arrest.

During the hearing, his defense asked the court to allow Craig’s extradition to the United States on condition that it receive guarantees from the U.S. government that he won’t receive a life sentence or the death penalty.

Lang also asked the court for protection and refugee status while promising to comply with house arrest rules in order to support his family.

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However, the prosecutor argued that an “official review has not been completed” regarding the receipt of information requests that were sent “to public authorities” and that the State Migration Service hasn’t formally considered Lang’s application for refugee status.

A former U.S. army specialist who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, Lang is one of two veterans suspected of involvement in the 2018 murder of a couple in Florida.

According to a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Florida, Lang and another former U.S. Army soldier, Alex Zwiefelhofer, were accused of robbing the Florida couple and then killing them in an effort to get money to travel to Venezuela to “participate in an armed conflict against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”

In Ukraine, Lang first fought with the right-wing Ukrainian paramilitary group Right Sector in 2015 and a year later joined the Georgian National Legion after receiving legal permission to fight for Ukraine when changes in legislation went into effect in April 2016.

He left in 2017 and tried to make it to Sudan via Kenya to fight the Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group Al-Shabab, but was detained and deported back to the United States before going back to Ukraine again.

He and Zwiefelhofer face charges, including conspiracy to commit violence, but not actual murder charges in the 2018 slaying of the couple in Florida.

The Vinnytsya court in central Ukraine initially placed Craig under 24-hour house arrest for two months on October 8.