Ex-US marine accused of spying in Russian Federation is British citizen

GTA brother doubts Russian spying charges against U.S. Marine

GTA brother doubts Russian spying charges against U.S. Marine

American citizen Paul Whelan has been formally charged in Russian Federation with espionage, his lawyer said Thursday, nearly a week after he was detained in Moscow while on what his family says was only a vacation trip.

Now Russia has granted U.S. consular officials access to Whelan for the first time since his arrest.

Whelan was arrested "during an espionage operation", Russia's Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, said on Monday. "Whelan dismisses it", according to an anonymous source familiar with the case who was quoted by Interfax.

Until Dec. 28, when Paul Whelan, a retired Marine from Novi, was taken into custody, without the knowledge of embassy officials or notification of his family, "the Russians had no leverage", Browder said.

His lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov told Interfax that he has appealed charges against an American.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the USA hoped to gain access soon to the former Marine and that "if the detention is not appropriate, we will demand his immediate return".

"I don't think there's any chance that he's a spy", David Whelan told CNN. "I just don't see him putting himself in a position where he would be considered to break the law by a government like Russia's".

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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.

He was acting as a tour guide for other wedding guests who had not visited Russian Federation previously, his brother said. He visited Russia occasionally but he did have an active Vkontakte account, the Russian version of Facebook. He had been staying at the upscale Metropol hotel in central Moscow and had been involved in the wedding party. That was the same day, December 28, that Paul Whelan was detained.

David appeared on CBC and CNN to discuss the arrest and speak about the kind of person his brother is, suggesting Paul was concerned about mundane details such as his parents slipping on the ice or his dog's trip to the veterinarian, rather than global politics, prior to his trip East. His friends hadn't heard anything from Paul since 5 p.m.

USA Todayreported on Wednesday that Paul Whelan's military records show him serving in the Marine reserves from 1994 to 2008, with deployments to Iraq as an administrative clerk in 2004 and 2006. He received a "bad conduct" discharge from the Marines, according to his official military personnel file obtained by Fox News. That has given rise to speculation that Whelan might have been seized as a potential bargaining chip.

The United States has been cautious in its public comments on the case, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying earlier Wednesday that Washington was trying to learn more about the situation.

Russia says Butina was forced to make a false confession about being a Russian agent.

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