Ex-US soldier extradited from Ukraine on murder charges

A former US soldier accused of participating in an “international crime wave” appeared Monday at his first court appearance in Florida after being extradited from Ukraine, where he previously said he was part of a volunteer battalion fighting Russian separatists, U.S. authorities said.

Craig Austin Lang, 34, faces charges in three states for allegedly killing and robbing a Florida couple in 2018, conspiracy to commit passport fraud and aggravated identity theft, among other possible crimes. said a press release from the Ministry of Justice.

“Lang’s alleged conduct is shocking in its magnitude and callous disregard for human life,” Nicole M. Argentieri, chief of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said.

Lang’s court-appointed attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday evening. Lang pleaded not guilty during his appearance Monday, according to court documents.

Lang, from Surprise, Arizona, was dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 2014 and in 2016 he joined a far-right Ukrainian nationalist militant group, Right Sector, that fought pro-Russian separatists, The Washington Post reported. In Ukraine, He met fellow former U.S. soldier Alex Jared Zwiefelhofer, now 27, with whom he reportedly traveled to East Africa, authorities said. The pair had planned to fight the Islamic militant group Al-Shabab but were deported back to the United States because they did not have proper travel documents, according to a 2019 complaint.

The two are accused of luring and killing a Florida couple in 2018 after falsely advertising the sale of guns, then stealing the money the couple brought to buy the weapons in hopes of financing trips to Venezuela, where they planned to join the armed conflict against the Venezuelan government.

Zwiefelhofer was convicted of several charges in March.

Lang has been opposing extradition from Ukraine since 2019, but his latest legal challenge was rejected by the European Court of Human Rights in November.

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