The brother of a US citizen arrested on Friday for spying in Russia has instructed BBC Information he’s harmless and was in Moscow to attend a marriage.
The household of ex-Marine Paul Whelan, 48, learnt of his arrest on Monday from information stories after questioning why they’d not heard from him for days.
His twin brother David Whelan says he knew Russia effectively and can’t imagine he would have damaged any legal guidelines.
Russia’s FSB state safety company says he was “caught spying” in Moscow.
The Michigan man was charged with the crime of espionage, for which he may very well be sentenced to no less than 10 years in jail.
The US state division has requested consular entry after being notified by the Russian authorities of the detention.
Spy scandals have erupted between Russia and America at common intervals because the Chilly Struggle, whereas Russia’s actions in Ukraine since 2014, and allegations of Russian meddling within the 2016 US presidential election, have seen relations plummet.
What was Paul Whelan doing in Russia?
The FSB says he was detained “throughout an act of espionage”, a wording which suggests that Mr Whelan was caught red-handed, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford stories.
In an announcement tweeted by David Whelan, his household mentioned it had been out of character for him to not keep in touch even when travelling.
Talking to BBC Information on Tuesday, David Whelan mentioned his brother had arrived in Russia on 22 December and had been attributable to return on 6 January.
He had been attending the marriage of a fellow former Marine to a Russian citizen and had deliberate to go to Russia’s second metropolis, St Petersburg, along with Moscow.
Paul Whelan, his brother mentioned, has been visiting Russia for enterprise and pleasure since 2007, working in company safety, with automotive business elements agency BorgWarner his most up-to-date employer.
In addition to serving within the US navy, he has labored in regulation enforcement up to now.
Paul Whelan would stand out in a crowd, his brother recommended, as he’s “about six foot [1.8 metres] and sort of hefty with a former soldier’s construct”.
However requested if he may consider any motive why he had attracted the eye of Russian safety companies, David Whelan was adamant there was none.
“I can not think about how somebody with a regulation enforcement background who can also be a former US Marine, and who’s now working in company safety and can also be conscious of the dangers of journey, would have damaged any regulation not to mention the regulation associated to espionage,” he mentioned.
“His innocence is undoubted and we belief that his rights shall be revered,” the household mentioned in its assertion.
How has the US responded to the arrest?
Paul Whelan’s three siblings have contacted Congressional representatives, the US embassy and the state division, which David Whelan described as “very useful”.
“Russia’s obligations beneath the Vienna Conference require them to supply consular entry,” a state division consultant instructed BBC Information.
“We’ve requested this entry and count on Russian authorities to supply it. Because of privateness concerns, we’ve no further data to supply presently.”
How intensive is spying between Russia and the US?
The 2 international locations have been spying on one another for many years however only a few US residents have been arrested for espionage on Russian territory:
- In 2013, US diplomat Ryan Fogle was arrested and expelled after being accused of attempting to recruit a Russian intelligence officer as a spy
- In 2000, former naval intelligence officer Edmond Pope was tried and convicted of espionage but pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin
The two countries have expelled each other’s diplomats at intervals, notably final yr over the nerve agent assault within the UK, which was blamed on Russia.
Final month, a Russian gun rights activist held within the US, Maria Butina, pleaded responsible to conspiracy. US prosecutors say she acted as a Russian state agent, infiltrating conservative political teams.
In 2010, 10 Russian agents were arrested in the US for deep-cover espionage and later swapped for 4 Russians convicted of spying for the West.