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

USA citizen held in Moscow charged with 'espionage': Lawyer

USA citizen held in Moscow charged with 'espionage': Lawyer

The Russian government said Wednesday that it has allowed an American citizen held on espionage charges to have access to USA officials seeking answers about his arrest.

On Monday, Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officials said Whelan had been detained December 28 "while carrying out an act of espionage" and that a criminal probe had been ordered.

The Russian authorities have said little about Whelan's arrest, save that he had been held accused of "carrying out an act of espionage".

Zherebenkov told the New York Times he hasn't seen all the evidence that brought on the charges leveled against his client, but said he presumes Whelan is innocent.

The lawyer said he visited Mr Whelan on Wednesday and found him in a "very hopeful" mood.

The U.S. ambassador to Russian Federation has visited Whelan in prison.

"Ambassador Huntsman visited Mr. Paul Whelan today in the Lefortovo Detention Facility".

Russian news agency Rosbalt reported Whelan was arrested in his Metropol Hotel room five minutes after he received a USB stick containing a list of names working at a classified security agency.

David Whelan disputes Russia's allegation that his brother is a spy.

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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 went on to start Kingsmead Arsenal, an online firearms business, from his Novi, Michigan, home, and worked for Troy, Michigan-based temporary staffing firm Kelly Services until 2017.

"He's got a military background, he's been in corporate security for years", David Whelan said Tuesday. This was the first time he had been permitted to do so since Whelan had been detained on Friday.

Whelan's family, in a statement that David Whelan posted on Twitter, said: "We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being".

Browder argued that people accused of espionage under circumstances like Whelan's are normally deported, not arrested and threatened with 20 years in prison. Instead, many suspect that the arrest was retribution for the detention of a 30-year-old Russian woman named Maria Butina, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy for attempting to infiltrate Republican political circles on behalf of the Russian government.

"He doesn't want her to testify, he wants her back in Russian Federation, but he had no leverage to do that", Browder said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the USA has demanded answers from Russian Federation.

Hedge-fund manager Bill Browder, who sparred with Russian President Vladimir Putin over corrupt business practices, spoke with WJR radio Thursday.

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