Published: Fri, January 04, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

British government concerned after Russian Federation detains United Kingdom citizen on espionage charges

British government concerned after Russian Federation detains United Kingdom citizen on espionage charges

The Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, has said MI resident Paul Whelan, a 48-year-old corporate security director from the Detroit area, was arrested Friday on espionage charges.

The 48-year-old was born in Canada to parents from the United Kingdom and also holds a British passport.

David Whelan said he'd been told his brother was fine and looking healthy, after the USA ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman visited him this week.

David Whelan said Huntsman's visit to his brother "was really just a good check to know that he was well and still alive". In Russia, a spying conviction carries a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years.

"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.

The FSB has opened a criminal case against Whelan but given no details of his alleged activities.

The detention of Whelan comes weeks after Russian Maria Butina pleaded guilty in a US court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin.

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

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

"He told us what we hoped to hear, which was that Paul was alive and well, considering the conditions - I mean, being held in a Russian jail", David Whelan said, adding that his brother was told the consulate "could start helping him to get a lawyer and to help get funds to him so he can buy personal things to - like toilet paper and things that you need in a Russian jail". "We would never put a USA citizen, without diplomatic immunity, in harm's way this way, especially looking after low-level things like this".

Russian Federation has angrily denied involvement in the Salisbury poisonings.

Since 2017, Whelan has worked for a Michigan-based auto parts company called BorgWarner, most recently as director of global security. The two Russian suspects identified by British authorities, who were spotted on security cameras in Salisbury on the day that former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal were poisoned, claim they were businessmen on a short holiday to see the city's famed cathedral. The Foreign Ministry has gone to great lengths to paint Butina as a political prisoner, notably by launching a wide-ranging social media campaign. But he received a bad conduct discharge in 2008 on a charge of larceny - circumstances that were not previously known to his closest relatives, according to Whelan's twin brother. Whelan was visited by the Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, inside his cell.

A person familiar with Whelan's case said he has a total of four passports.

Whelan, a former staff sergeant with the Marines in Iraq, has visited Russian Federation since at least 2007.

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