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Russia charges U.S. citizen Paul Whelan with espionage

By
Nicholas Sakelaris
The Russian government officially charged U.S. citizen Paul Whelan with espionage Thursday, six days after his arrest. Photo courtesy of the Whelan family/EPA-EFE
The Russian government officially charged U.S. citizen Paul Whelan with espionage Thursday, six days after his arrest. Photo courtesy of the Whelan family/EPA-EFE

Jan. 3 (UPI) -- U.S. citizen Paul Whelan has been charged with espionage nearly a week after he was arrested in Moscow, where he was visiting for a friend's wedding.

Russian authorities say Whelan, a 48-year-old Michigan resident, was caught by the Federal Security Service in the act of espionage Friday. He's being held in prison but his court date could be six months away.

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His attorney, Vladimir Zherebenkov, told CNN that Whelan is being treated well and that his mood and condition are good. Zherebenkov is asking that Whelan be released on bail.

Whelan is the head of global security for Michigan-based BorgWarner, an auto parts supply company. He visited Russia occasionally but he did have an active Vkontakte account, the Russian version of Facebook.

Whelan's family denies that he was a spy, saying he retired from the Marine Corps and visited Russia to attend the wedding of a fellow Marine who was marrying a Russian woman.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman visited Whelan in the detention facility Wednesday and spoke with the accused spy's family after the visit, a State Department spokesman said.

Whelan's arrest came 15 days after Maria Butina pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to spying on pro-gun conservatives for the Russian government. That raises speculation that Whelan's arrest could be retaliation for Butina's in hopes of a prisoner swap.

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