U.S. envoy meets American accused by Russian Federation of spying

Geraldine Edwards
January 4, 2019

According to The Daily Beast, Russian investigators with the Federal Security Service (FSB) offered Whelan an attorney, former Soviet investigator Vladimir Zherebenkov, who has never before represented a USA citizen in an espionage case.

On Monday, Russia's FSB State Security agency revealed that it had arrested an American named Paul Whelan on Friday.

A spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Minister is quoted by state news agency Tass and private agency Interfax as saying access was granted Wednesday.

Whelan's twin brother, David Whelan, told ABC News this week that he could not imagine his brother would spy in Russian Federation.

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Earlier, family members said there were "deeply concerned for his safety and well-being", adding that "his innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected". Whelan, the FSB claimed, had been "caught spying" in Moscow.

"Paul flew into Moscow on the 22nd of December to be part of that wedding party", his brother David Whelan said.

On Wednesday, the Russians said a USA citizen was being held on espionage charges and that he has had access to American officials. The Kremlin has not since published any details on other Americans now in Russian detention. Whelan was an administrative clerk and administrative chief and deployed for the war against Iraq for several months in 2004 and 2006.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier said the US had asked Russian Federation to explain Mr Whelan's arrest and would demand his immediate return if it determined his detention was inappropriate. He served in the Marine Corps Reserves from 1994 to 2008 and was convicted of larceny in a special court-martial in January 2008. "We are asking for bail instead", Zherebenkov told Reuters by telephone.

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The charges he faces carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Mr Whelan's arrest came after President Vladimir Putin accused Western nations of using espionage cases to try to undermine an increasingly powerful Russian Federation.

"Ambassador Huntsman expressed his support for Mr Whelan and offered the embassy's assistance", a State Department spokesperson said. Prosecutors said she tried to build a back channel between Kremlin officials and Republican operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Whelan was in Moscow to attend a wedding when he disappeared, his brother David Whelan said Tuesday.

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Zherebenkov said Whelan, who is being held at the Lefortovo detention facility in Moscow, was "feeling positive" and that a translator was explaining the legal procedures to him.

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