Moscow denies British citizen being held as bargaining chip for jailed Russian

Paul Whelan has been accused of espionage in Russia. He has U.S. and British citizenship

Whelan's family says he was in Russian Federation for the wedding of a friend.

Some observers believe that the arrest may be a ruse so that Moscow can initiate a spy swap - exchanging Paul Whelan in return for Maria Butina, who was indicted and pleaded guilty to acting as a Russian government agent in December previous year.

The Russian government says the USA inappropriately delayed notifying Russian officials about Makarenko's arrest.

Saipan, where Makarenko was apprehended, is also a major birth-tourism hot spot, which attracts many Chinese parents looking to establish USA citizenship for their children.

Paul Whalen had been a reservist in the U.S. Marine Corps when he was called up to serve in Iraq during the 2000s. Whelan was found guilty of stealing more than $10,000 while deployed to Al Asad Base in Iraq and, around the same time, bounced almost $6,000 worth of checks, according to military records. Sharing pictures of the visit, he said he had a "quite enjoyable time" exploring the cities of Moscow and St Petersburg.

His family, it has emerged, were unaware of events.

Whelan's capture escalates the already tense relationship between the USA and its allies and Russian Federation.

Whelan worked as director of global security for US-based automotive components supplier BorgWarner.

Whelan's brother said it would not be surprising to find Russian soldiers among his contacts. BorgWarner does not have any facilities in Russian Federation.

Since his first visit in 2006, Mr Whelan has made a number of trips to Russian Federation.

"I'm pretty sure that some of the people he knows through social media are probably Russian soldiers because there are a lot of Russian soldiers and he probably knows one", David Whelan said in an interview.

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According to his brother, Mr Whelan was in Moscow to help plan a fellow former Marine's wedding because he had visited Russian Federation several times previously.

Russia's embassy in Washington said they found out about the arrest from Mr Makarenko's relatives.

People walk during snowfall in Red Square in Moscow, Dec. 24, 2018.

State news agency Tass and private agency Interfax reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources, that Whelan has been indicted on the charges.

BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale says there are uncorroborated reports he had been caught receiving a digital storage device containing a list of intelligence officials.

The worldwide links to an American charged with espionage in Russian Federation widened Friday as Ireland became the fourth nation to acknowledge Paul Whelan as a citizen and seek consular access.

David Whelan, meanwhile, has dismissed the allegations as nonsense.

It comes just days after Moscow arrested the former USA marine Paul Whelan, who has been accused of spying.

The Russian Embassy to the United States is seeking consular access to Russian national Dmitry Makarenko detained at the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which the U.S. authorities should have granted before January 2, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a commentary on Saturday.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said individuals should not be used as diplomatic pawns, as Mr Whelan also holds a British passport.

Paul Whelan speaks so little Russian that when USA diplomats visited him on Wednesday he did not have his glasses, his brother said.


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