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16 Jan, 2019 15:10

Former US marine Whelan charged with spying was caught ‘red-handed’ – Lavrov

Former US marine Whelan charged with spying was caught ‘red-handed’ – Lavrov

Moscow didn’t nab American citizen Paul Whelan with plans to swap him for Russian nationals being held overseas, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

Whelan, who is an American, Canadian, British, and Irish national, was apprehended and detained in Moscow because he “was receiving certain materials he wasn’t supposed to receive,” Lavrov said at a press event on Wednesday.

Also on rt.com American accused of spying in Moscow had plenty of ‘friends’ with Russian military ties – report

The minister addressed the suggestions that the prospect of a prisoner exchange was the key motive behind Whelan’s arrest. Such notions are “completely untrue,” he stressed.

“We never do things like that. I’ll say it again: he was caught red-handed.”

Whelan, 48, was detained in late December, last year, while visiting Russia to attend a friend’s wedding. He is an Iraq War veteran and director of global security and investigations for BorgWarner, a Michigan-based car parts manufacturer.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) said that the man was apprehended while “committing an act of espionage.” He was subsequently charged with spying and faces 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted. The secret services didn’t provide details of the operation.

Also on rt.com US officials allowed to visit American arrested for espionage in Moscow – Russian Foreign Ministry

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Lavrov noted that the investigation is still ongoing.

According to Russian media, Whelan tried to recruit a local acquaintance as a spy and received a USB drive containing classified information on various government agencies.

The man’s twin brother, David, called such a scenario “ridiculous.” He told RT’s video agency Ruptly that Whelan “wouldn’t have knowingly accepted” a USB drive with secure or confidential information on it. Whelan’s family earlier said that his innocence is “undoubted.”

Sergey Lavrov told reporters that David Whelan is currently in Russia and was “briefed” on the conditions of his brother’s detention and has no complaints about them.

On January 2, US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman visited Paul Whelan in Lefortovo Detention Facility in Moscow. American diplomats requested another meeting, and their request “will be approved,” Lavrov said.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt previously said that London is “extremely worried” about Whelan’s wellbeing and the government is giving him “every support” it can.

The Russian foreign affairs chief denied receiving official requests of consular access from London.

Commenting on the issue, Lavrov recalled how London denied Russia’s multiple requests to meet Russian national Yulia Skripal, the daughter of a former double agent Sergei Skripal. He said if British diplomats file a request to meet Whelan, Moscow will treat it “differently.”

“We will act in accordance the obligations enshrined in the Convention [on Consular Relations] and diplomatic courtesy.”

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