Posted on January 2, 2019
The FSB, Russia’s main counter-espionage service, said the American man was detained in Moscow on Friday as he was caught “during an espionage operation”. The state Tass news agency identified the detained man as Paul Whelan. Spying charges carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years in Russia. The US State Department said it was “aware of the detention of a US citizen by Russian authorities” and had received formal notification from the Russian Foreign Ministry. It said it was pushing for consular access to the detained American.
“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 department said. The State Department did not confirm the name of the detained citizen or provide any information about the case, citing “privacy considerations”. The arrest comes as Russia-US ties have sunk to post-Cold War lows over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and the allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. Earlier this year, the UK and its allies expelled Russian diplomats following the Salisbury nerve agent attack on former Russia spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. The UK blamed Russia who denied all allegations. The British military were brought in to decontaminate the area following the use of the chemical ‘Novichok’.