Published: Mon, January 07, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Russian arrested in CNMI over military equipment scheme

Russian arrested in CNMI over military equipment scheme

Maria Butina's plea bargain with US authorities was made public only two weeks before Mr. Whelan's arrest.

Since his arrest Mr Whelan, who also holds US, Canadian and Irish passports, has been kept in the notoriously brutal Lefortovo prison in the Russian capital.

It comes just days after Moscow arrested the former USA marine Paul Whelan, who has been accused of spying.

"I know they've known each other for nearly 20 years", said David Whelan.

He said his twin brother had been taking Americans associated with the wedding party on a tour around Red Square museums shortly before disappearing.

It was speculated he could be used in exchange for the release of Russian Maria Butina, who is being held in the U.S. after admitting acting as a secret agent for the Kremlin.

In the past, Russian Federation has sometimes arrested foreigners with the aim of trading prisoners with other countries.

The Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, dismissed suggestions that Whelan may be part of a prisoner swap.

"As to the possibility of exchanges of one sort of another, it's impossible and incorrect to consider the question now, when an official charge hasn't even been presented", he was quoted as saying by the state news agency RIA-Novosti.

He said the family have had no contact with Vladimir Zherebenkov, the lawyer assigned to represent his brother, and is unsure how he came to be hired, as the United States embassy only recommends English-speaking lawyers.

Whelan is now in detention, awaiting trial on charges of espionage. Whelan, a former Marine who was twice deployed to Iraq, is also an apparent supporter of US President Donald Trump.

London has confirmed that Paul Whelan is a United Kingdom national and requested consular access to see him, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman told Sputnik on Friday.

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After play he was quizzed on Fox Cricket about reports of tactical differences inside the dressing room but denied that was the case.

The man, Dmitry Viktorovich Makarenko, was arrested on December 29 on the main island of Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, the ministry said Saturday in a statement. NPR's requests for comment to the Department of Justice and Makarenko's attorney weren't immediately returned on Saturday.

Miami federal prosecutors accused Makarenko in June 2017 of conspiring to export defense articles including night-vision scopes from the United States to Russian Federation without US approval, Reuters reported.

Makarenko, who was listed as a resident of Vladivostok, was declared a fugitive from USA justice in January 2018.

In June previous year, Mr Makarenko's co-defendant, Vladimir Nevidomy, 32, was sentenced to 26 months in prison by the Southern District Court.

Whelan was arrested by the FSB on December 28.

Whelan's family says he was in Russian Federation for the wedding of a friend.

Relations between Russian Federation and the United States are already strained over issues ranging from Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 USA presidential election, and its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, to the poisoning of a double agent in Britain.

Reuters also reported that the Russian Foreign Ministry on Saturday had accused the USA of detaining Russian citizen Dmitry Makarenko on Northern Mariana Island, a US commonwealth in the Pacific Ocean, and then transferring him to Florida, a day after Moscow arrested Whelan.

Although Whelan entered Russian Federation on his USA passport, he also holds British, Irish and Canadian citizenships.

"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.

Butina was indicted and pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government - a legal charge sometimes used against foreign intelligence agents.

"We urge the US Congress and the state department to help on Paul's behalf to secure his release and return him home soon".

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