Published: Thu, January 03, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Russian Federation formally charges MI man with espionage

As of Wednesday, the FSB has not clarified the charges or produced any evidence against Whelan.

The charges he faces carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Whelan reportedly speaks some Russian and had been traveling to the country for a wedding.

"He asked for a few everyday items", Zherebenkov said, adding that Whelan had been delayed in receiving them because he was arrested just before New Year and "in principle, the comrades were already on holiday".

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr. visited Whelan on Wednesday in Moscow's Lefortovo Prison, the State Department said.

He served two tours of duty in Iraq. He was given a bad-conduct discharge in December 2008 at the rank of private.

Whelan is employed as director of global security at BorgWarner, an American automotive parts supplier.

David Whelan denied his brother was a spy, and called for his safe return back to the U.S.

Whelan spent his two weeks in Russian Federation, saying in the interview that the leave program "gives those of us who are single an opportunity to travel throughout the world wherever we want to go and experience the diversity of culture".

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"I can't imagine how someone with a law enforcement background who is also a former US Marine, and who is now working in corporate security and is also aware of the risks of travel, would have broken any law let alone the law related to espionage", David told BBC News on Tuesday.

A self-confessed Russophile and a keen traveler, Paul Whelan has travelled to Russian Federation repeatedly as a tourist, his brother said.

Whelan's current employer BorgWarner, an auto parts supply company, also released a statement on his arrest, saying, "We can confirm that Mr. Whelan now serves as the company's director, global security". He had been staying with the wedding party at Moscow's Metropol hotel when he went missing, his brother David said.

Former CIA agent John Sipher agrees, saying Paul Whelan's spotty military career would keep US intelligence from hiring him for sensitive operations.

Paul Whelan, a USA citizen detained in Russian Federation for suspected spying, appears in a photo provided by the Whelan family on January 1, 2019. His friends hadn't heard anything from Paul since 5 p.m. Due to privacy considerations for Mr. Whelan and his family, we have nothing further at this time, " Kalan said.

Whelan's family learned of his arrest only after it was reported by Russian state news outlets, prompting the family to contact congressional representatives and US diplomats.

"I think Putin is in a raw panic because of Maria Butina, the Russian woman who was caught trying to basically take money from Russia and contribute it to the Trump campaign via the NRA", Browder said. That has given rise to speculation that Whelan might have been seized as a potential bargaining chip.

On Wednesday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would demand Whelan's immediate return if the detention is not appropriate.

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