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Bail Sought for Former Marine Held in Moscow for Alleged Spying

Bail Sought for Former Marine Held in Moscow for Alleged Spying

"We are all extremely anxious about him and his family", British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC on January 4.

The 48-year-old was born in Canada to parents from the United Kingdom and also holds a British passport.

Whelan's British citizenship introduces a new political dimension - relations between London and Moscow have been toxic since the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury in March past year. The British side has sent a request for a consular visit.

Whelan's lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, did not comment on the charges but said that under the terms of his arrest, Whelan was expected to remain in pretrial custody in Moscow until at least February 28.

Whelan's family says he was in Russian Federation to attend a friend's wedding.

Since 2017, Whelan has worked for a Michigan-based auto parts company called BorgWarner, most recently as director of global security.

Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs on January 4 confirmed that Whelan also holds Irish citizenship and said it was also requesting consular access to him in Moscow.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this week that the United States had asked Russian Federation to explain Whelan's arrest and would demand his immediate return if it determined his detention is inappropriate.

His twin, David Whelan, said his brother's "innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected".

Paul Whelan arrest
British national Paul Whelan 48 a former US Marine has been detained in Russia on spying charges

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Hunt said he was "extremely worried" about Mr Whelan, adding: "Individuals should not be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage".

"Because it is desperately worrying, not just for the individual but their families, and we are extremely anxious about him and his family as we hear this news".

Russian authorities have not said what Whelan is accused of doing beyond the relatively broad charge of espionage which, if convicted, could land him between 10 and 20 years behind bars.

"He has the British citizenship".

Whelan's detention further complicates a strained relationship between Moscow and Washington, despite the professed desire of the two presidents, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, to build a personal rapport.

Putin has previously stated he would rein in Russian retaliatory measures against USA interests in the hope relations would improve, but Whelan's detention indicates the Kremlin's calculations may now have changed.

The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release.

A person familiar with Whelan's case said he has a total of four passports.

The U.S. ambassador to Russian Federation, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, visited Paul Whelan in jail on Wednesday, after the U.S. requested access to him.

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