Family Says Detained American is Innocent
Paul Whelan had been in Moscow for a wedding, his family said
Photo Radio Liberty
The family of a United States citizen being held by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) over suspected spying says he is innocent and was in Moscow to attend a wedding.
Paul Whelan, a retired Marine, was last heard from on December 28, according to a statement from his family, obtained by RFE/RL on Jan. 1.
His failure to contact his family “was very much out of character for him,” the statement said.
“We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being. His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected,” it added.
Whelan, 48, could face between 10 to 20 years in prison if found guilty. Russian officials did not disclose any details of his alleged involvement in espionage.
David Whelan told RFE/RL in a direct message via Twitter that his brother “has a corporate security role” with BorgWarner, a U.S.-based supplier of automotive parts and components.
BorgWarner said in a statement sent to RFE/RL on January 1 that Paul Whelan was the company’s global security director. It added that he is responsible for overseeing the company’s facilities in Auburn Hills, Michigan, “and at other company locations around the world.”
BorgWarner has 60 manufacturing sites in 18 countries, but none of them are listed as being in Russia.
A spokeswoman for BorgWarner told RFE/RL that the company “does not have any facilities in Russia.”
Russia’s state-owned conglomerate Rostec said in 2013 that its truckmaker, KamAz, had a long record of collaboration with a subsidiary of BorgWarner known as BorgWarnerTurboSystems.
David Whelan told AP in a January 1 interview that his brother had been to Russia “several times” before and was helping a former U.S. Marine friend of his plan a wedding with a Russian woman.
On the morning of the day he was detained, Paul Whelan had given a tour of the Kremlin museums to a group of wedding guests, his brother said. He failed to show up for the wedding on the evening of December 28.
David Whelan said his absence led the family to fear he had been in a car accident or perhaps mugged, and were searching the Internet for news about “dead Americans in Moscow.”
The U.S. State Department has said it knows about “the detention of a U.S. citizen by Russian authorities” and had been formally notified by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The State Department said on December 31 that it had requested consular access to Paul Whelan and expected “Russian authorities to provide it.”
David Whelan said in the AP interview that his family was told by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that it has been unable to speak with Paul Whelan.
David Whelan said his brother had previously worked for Kelly Services, an international office-staffing company that does have offices in Moscow, and had been to Russia on business and to visit friends he had met on social-media networks.
Paul Whelan reportedly had a page on the Russian social-media site VKontakte on which he writes messages in basic Russian
Paul Whelan, the American arrested in Russia on espionage charges, has a VK page where he has 70 friends and regularly writes things like “Forward, President Trump!” in rudimentary Russian. His last status reads: “Next stop: Moscow…”
|categories||Prisoners of Kremlin|