Russian Federation formally charges former Marine Paul Whelan with espionage

Russian Federation formally charges former Marine Paul Whelan with espionage

Russian Federation formally charges former Marine Paul Whelan with espionage

Whelan, a MI native, was arrested last Friday by members of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) who accused him of being on a "spy mission", and he has since been detained at Lefortovo Prison in Moscow.

The new agency said once Whelan was presented with the charge, he dismissed it.

The U.S. State Department said later that it was notified of the detention of Whelan and requested consular access and expected "Russian authorities to provide it". The source claims that Whelan used "highly non-standard methods for intelligence gathering", registering accounts on social networks popular among Russians. "His innocence is undoubted and we trust his rights will be respected".

It wasn't until days after Whelan's arrest that the FSB publicly acknowledged he was in the agency's custody, saying in a brief statement that Whelan was arrested Friday during a "spy mission" and that he is the subject of an investigation.

Whelan, a 48-year-old MI resident who now works in corporate security.

They offered no further details. He also informed that he visited Whelan on Wednesday, adding that the defendant is in good spirits.

His service as staff sergeant ended when he was convicted at a special court-martial on an attempted larceny charge, military court documents show. The details of the case are not clear.

Whelan flew to Moscow on December 22 to attend the wedding of a fellow former United States service member and a Russian woman, his family said. "He was not on company business, it is our understanding he was on a personal trip", Kathy Graham, a spokesperson for BorgWarner, told the New York Times. Russia's foreign ministry paints her as a political prisoner.

David Whelan said his brother, Paul, 48, an American from Novi, Mich., stopped communicating with his family after December 28, when he was in Moscow for a friend's wedding.

David clarified in an MSNBC interview that his brother was part of the wedding party and was asked by the groom to lead tours around Moscow and the Kremlin because he had visited Russian Federation before. While he doesn't speak much Russian, according to his brother, Whelan had written a few VK posts in the language, including "Merry Christmas" and another congratulating the Russian people for "Victory Day", the anniversary of the Nazi surrender in 1945.

But this wasn't Whelan's first trip to Russian Federation.

Whelan's last place of duty was Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California. According to a statement from his employer, Whelan is now the director of global security for BorgWarner Inc., a large American auto-parts supplier.

The directive goes beyond a December State Department travel advisory for Russian Federation, which tells American travelers to exercise increased caution when visiting the country "due to terrorism, harassment, and the arbitrary enforcement of local laws".

"I don't think there's any chance that he's a spy", David Whelan told CNN. Whelan, he said, "would not have knowingly broken any law, let alone one involving espionage".

Whelan's arrest, experts suggest, could be connected to the case of Maria Butina. But the details of why Russian Federation thinks Whelan is a spy are still frustratingly unclear. Given the charges against Whelan, however, the appeal will nearly certainly be rejected.

"A lot of the press around Ms. Butina suggests that she just was a young student who was just doing networking. but in our world, Ms. Butina would be something we would call an "access agent" - sort of the overt face of covert work, if you will".

KELEMEN: McFaul says the Russians may be looking to trade Whelan for Maria Butina, the Russian who pleaded guilty in a USA court recently of conspiracy to infiltrate US conservative groups. Him 20 years in prison.

Secretary of State Pompeo was asked by reporters on Tuesday if he believed Russian Federation had taken Whelan in retaliation for Butina's detention. "I'm sure my brother is not a spy". The question of how fair his trial will be remains unknown. Former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul called the situation unusual on Tuesday and demanded Russia provide an explanation.

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