An American citizen was arrested in Russia on Friday for alleged spying, Russia’s domestic security agency announced Monday, marking one of the country’s first overt tit-for-tat actions after several high-profile Russia-related indictments in the U.S.
Paul Whelan was taken into custody after allegedly being caught “during an act of espionage,” although Russia’s Federal Security Service, the country’s primary internal security arm, gave no further details about the alleged incident, Fox News reported.
The FSB, as the security service is also known, said Whelan faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, TASS news agency reported.
The U.S. State Department responded Monday: “We are aware of the detention of a U.S. citizen by Russian authorities. We have been formally notified of the detention by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Russia’s obligations under the Vienna Convention require them to provide consular access. We have requested this access and expect Russian authorities to provide it.”
The Marine’s brother,Whelan — the head of global security for a Michigan-based auto parts supplier — was in the Russia capital to attend a friend’s wedding.
“We noticed that he was not in communication on the 28th, which was very much out of character for him even when he was traveling,” Whelan said. “We learned of his arrest Monday morning after his detention was picked up on newswires.”
The brother said he’s scared for his 48-year-old sibling’s safety and at first feared the worst.
“I was looking for any stories about dead Americans in Moscow, so in a way it was better than finding out that he had died,” Whelan said.
Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, was cuffed in Moscow on Friday after the Russian Federal Security Service claimed he had engaged in an “espionage operation” — but the ex-military man’s brother said the allegations were bogus.
“We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being,” David Whelan in a statement posted to his Twitter page. “His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected.”