USA ambassador visits suspected U.S. spy in Russian jail

USA ambassador visits suspected U.S. spy in Russian jail

On Monday, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) revealed that U.S. citizen Paul Whelan was detained on December 28, 2018 in Moscow, allegedly while on an a spy mission.

Russia's FSB state security service detained Paul Whelan, 48, in Moscow last Friday on suspicion of spying, in a case that threatens to aggravate diplomatic tensions between Russian Federation and the United States. Russia's FSB security service did not acknowledge the arrest until Monday when it claimed Whelan was detained on a "spy mission". According to a statement from his employer, Whelan is now the director of global security for BorgWarner Inc., a large American auto-parts supplier.

Whelan works for a Michigan-based auto parts supplier and, according to the Rosbalt news agency, was arrested shortly after receiving a USB drive containing a classified list of names.

Whelan's arrest coincides with several spy scandals that have exacerbated tensions between Russian Federation and the West, including the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain.

Whelan hadn't been in touch with his family since his December 28 arrest, his brother David said on Twitter.

"If the detention is not appropriate, we will demand his immediate return", Pompeo told reporters while on a visit to Brazil.

Whelan's family have maintained his innocence and Kremlin experts have speculated that the arrest was a bogus attempt to create leverage against America in the case of Maria Butina, a Russian woman who pleaded guilty in the U.S.to acting as an illegal foreign agent just two weeks ago. He was an administrative clerk and administrative chief but was given a bad-conduct discharge in December 2008 at the rank of private. David said the family last heard from Paul, a retired U.S. Marine, on Friday, "which was very much out of character for him, even when he was traveling".

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His lawyer said the 48-year-old was "behaving in a constructive manner" and that investigators were treating him in a "humane and professional way".

The Marine Corps on Wednesday released details of Whelan's service record.

The charges came a day after the U.S. ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman met Mr Whelan at the Lefortovo prison in Moscow.

Whelan faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty, according to the ministry.

David clarified in an MSNBC interview that his brother was part of the wedding party and was asked by the groom to lead tours around Moscow and the Kremlin because he had visited Russian Federation before.

Former CIA operative John Sipher told NPR Whelan is "absolutely not" the kind of operative American intelligence services would recruit for a mission to Russian Federation, because "we would never put a USA citizen, without diplomatic immunity, in harm's way this way, especially looking after low-level things like this". The company does not have any facilities in Russia but has supplied Russian truckmaker Kamaz PJSC with technology for over 15 years.

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