'My brother is not a spy' | Ireland



Marine Paul Whelan is in custody after being accused of espionage by the Russian government.

Russian Federation has dismissed suggestions that a former USA marine accused of spying could be involved in a prisoner swap.

Russian Federation said Saturday (Jan 5) it wanted an explanation from Washington over the arrest of one of its nationals, as Moscow continued to hold a USA citizen for alleged espionage.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested Dmitry Makarenko on December 29 on Saipan, the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands, a United States commonwealth in the Western Pacific.

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. The crimes were allegedly committed in 2013.

Unlike in the U.S., Russia's holiday season runs into next week.

On Saturday, the Russian Foreign Ministry claimed the United States detained Dmitry Makarenko on December 29th on the northern Mariana Islands, and had him moved to Florida.

Asked whether Whelan had ties to U.S. intelligence, the CIA and the office of the Director of National Intelligence referred inquiries to the State Department, which did not respond immediately to CNN's request for comment.

Consular relations between Russia and each of those countries will dictate when the country's diplomats will be able to speak to Whelan, said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. Ryabkov also warned Russians to "weigh the consequences of traveling overseas".

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has yet to provide comment.

The arrest in December of Mr Whelan, who lives in the state of MI, came after Russian national Maria Butina pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in the USA last month.

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Ryabkov rebuffed those suggestions on Saturday.

Whelan was arrested December 28 while on a two-week visit to the country and has been charged with espionage.

"We don't agree with individuals being used in diplomatic chess games", British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told Sky News.

"Individuals should not be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage", Hunt said Friday.

Officials haven't given details of Whelan's suspected activities and he was initially identified only as an American.

The U.S. ambassador to Russian Federation, former Utah Gov. Huntsman also spoke with Whelan's family by phone.

"We are relieved and very pleased to know that staff of the USA embassy in Moscow have been given consular access to Paul and confirmed that he is safe", the family's statement said. "He was missing a lot of personal necessities, like toilet paper, that aren't provided", David Whelan said in a telephone interview.

Whelan's family has stressed his innocence.

David, who lives in Toronto, said only USA embassy officials in Russian Federation have been able to communicate with his brother.

"Just based on his background, as someone who is court martialed. from the marines, without a university background as far as I can tell", he is not the kind of person who would be hired as a US spy, John Sipher, a former Central Intelligence Agency station chief, told CBC's As It Happens.

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