Brazilian leader Bolsonaro thanks Putin after release of jailed driver of former Spartak Moscow star Fernando in banned drug case

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has thanked Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin after the driver for former Spartak Moscow star Fernando was released from prison in Russia, where he was detained for carrying a banned medicine.

Brazilian citizen Robson Oliveira was arrested in 2019 after he was found attempting to bring the drug methadone hydrochloride into Russia.

Oliveira insisted that the banned substance – which is legal in Brazil – was for the father-in-law of his football star employer.

The driver was being held in a prison in Kashira, around 115km to the south of Moscow, and was facing 20 years in prison for smuggling contraband.

In a statement and accompanying video on Sunday, Brazilian leader Bolsonaro announced that Oliveira was being released and would be returning home on Thursday.

“I am going to give news that all Brazilians are interested in: After a long negotiation, the Russian Government announced the release of Robson (Oliveira), who worked with the soccer player Fernando,” Bolsonaro said on Twitter.

“Robson spent two years in custody in Russia and today we extend our appreciation to President Vladimir Putin, the Russian ambassador in Brazil and our ambassador in Russia.”

Bolsonaro said last October that he would personally bring up the case with Putin, saying that the driver had “acted with the best of intentions” and had not known about the status of the drug he was carrying, which was supposedly for the father of Fernando's partner, Raphaela Rivoredo. 

Defensive midfielder Fernando, 29, spent three years at Moscow giants Spartak after signing from Italian club Sampdoria for around €12 million ($14.5 million).

Fernando, who has won eight caps for Brazil, helped Spartak to a first Russian league title in 16 years in 2017, and also scored a trademark rocket free-kick in the Champions League group stage draw with Liverpool in September of that year.

The footballer – whose full name is Fernando Lucas Martins – left Russia for the riches of the Chinese Super League in 2019 when he joined Beijing Sinobo Guoan.

Fernando now plays his football in China. © Reuters

Fernando is said to have been scorned by the family of his former driver for not doing more to help his case, although the footballer has refuted those claims in posts on his social media accounts, calling for “justice” for Oliveira and asserting that he has sent financial aid.   

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