UK Warns Russia- Don’t Play Diplomatic ‘Chess’ with People
Paul Whelan is a duel American and British citizen who was arrested by Russia's FSB, which alleges that he was a spy
Britain has warned Russia against playing “diplomatic chess games” following the arrest on spying charges by Moscow of Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who also holds British and Irish citizenship.
“We don’t agree with individuals being used in diplomatic chess games…. We are all extremely worried about him and his family,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC on Jan. 4.
Russia’s Federal Security Service said on Dec. 31 that it had detained Whelan while he was allegedly carrying out an act of espionage in Moscow.
At the time, he was identified only as an American.
His arrest comes with relations between Moscow and the West strained over a range of issues, including Russia’s role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, its alleged meddling in elections in the United States and elsewhere, and the poisoning of a double agent in Britain.
“We are extremely worried about Paul Whelan. We have offered consular assistance,” Hunt said. “The U.S. are leading on this because he is a British and American citizen.”
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman at the Russian Foreign Ministry, confirmed that British officials have applied for consular access to Whelan.
Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs on Jan. 4 confirmed that Whelan also holds Irish citizenship and said it was also requesting consular access to him in Moscow.
Interfax said Russian authorities had brought formal charges against Whelan on Jan. 3.
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 Feb. 28.
Zherebenkov said on Jan. 3 that he had appealed the two-month pretrial custody order, asking for Whelan to be released on bail instead.
The U.S. State Department said U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman visited Whelan at a detention facility in Moscow on Jan. 2 and spoke by phone with his family.
Whelan’s family has denied he is a spy and said he only in Moscow to attend a wedding.
The family said Whelan was last heard from on Dec. 28.
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