American Charged With Espionage in Russia Also Has U.K., Irish Citizenship

Leroy Wright
January 4, 2019

"We are all extremely anxious about him and his family", British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC on January 4.

Relations between Moscow and London have hit a low point in the wake of Britain's allegations that Russian military intelligence agents were behind the nerve-agent poisoning of a Russian former double agent and his daughter in the British city of Salisbury in March.

A Foreign Office spokesman in London said: "Our staff have requested consular access to a British man detained in Russian Federation after receiving a request for assistance from him".

Whelan's lawyer said on Thursday that he was detained in Moscow last week and charged with espionage.

Whelan, the head of global security for a Michigan-based auto parts supplier and a former U.S. Marine, was in Moscow to attend a wedding for a friend from the Marine Corps when he disappeared, his twin brother, David, said Tuesday.

Whelan, 48, lives in MI, where he's in charge of global security for automotive components supplier BorgWarner.

Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs on January 4 confirmed that Whelan also holds Irish citizenship and said it was also requesting consular access to him in Moscow.

Whelan's arrest came two weeks after Russian gun-rights activist Maria Butina pleaded guilty in the United States to conspiring to act as a foreign agent by trying to infiltrate conservative circles and the National Rifle Association to influence US politics.

Paul Whelan arrest
British national Paul Whelan 48 a former US Marine has been detained in Russia on spying charges

"We are giving him every support we that we can, but we don't agree with individuals being used in diplomatic chess games", Hunt said Friday on Sky News.

His brother David Whelan said their family was from the West Midlands.

"We are extremely anxious about Paul Whelan".

Paul Whelan was arrested in Russian Federation on espionage charges. "We would never put a USA citizen, without diplomatic immunity, in harm's way this way, especially looking after low-level things like this". In Russia, a spying conviction carries a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years.

Whelan's detention further complicates a strained relationship between Moscow and Washington, despite the professed desire of the two presidents, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, to build a personal rapport.

According to officials, Whelan has already reached out to Irish authorities with requests for assistance.

The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release. The family thanked Huntsman for staying in "regular contact" with Whelan and assuring his "rights will be respected". Whelan was visited by the Jon Huntsman, the USA ambassador to Moscow, inside his cell.

He said his brother had been to Russian Federation several times before.

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