Published: Sat, January 12, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Paul Whelan isn't a spy, and Putin knows it

Paul Whelan isn't a spy, and Putin knows it

Whelan's family says he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

While there may be any number of motivations for Whelan's arrest, most attention has centered on the notion of a potential swap for the recently arrested Russian operative Maria Butina. He was arrested by the Russian special security services (FSB) and accused of being an American spy who had tried to recruit Russian nationals via social media. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the U.S. embassy in Moscow had been notified about Whelan's detention in accordance with the bilateral consular convention.

Whelan, who is also a citizen of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada, was arrested December 28 by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB).

Peskov spoke after British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned last week that Whelan should not be used as a pawn in "diplomatic chess games".

Whelan's twin brother David wrote in an op-ed in Friday's Washington Post that his brother is not a spy. A photo shows him standing across the Moscow River from the Kremlin.

On January 9, the Kremlin denied Western allegations that it was using Whelan as a pawn in a political game.

"It's true that Russian Federation engages in counterintelligence with respect to those suspected of spying". Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also called on Russian Federation to provide more details of the charges and warned that if they inappropriate, the US will demand Whelan's release.

The Lefortovo prison in Moscow, Jan. 8, 2019. He is well aware that Whelan's activities are not consistent with US practice.

Peskov declined to comment on the suggestion that Whelan could be traded, referring reporters to statements by Russia's foreign ministry that it was too early to discuss any exchange.

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