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17 Aug, 2023 20:54

Russia arrests US citizen on suspicion of ‘espionage’ – RIA

The Lefortovo court has ordered the man to be kept in custody
Russia arrests US citizen on suspicion of ‘espionage’ – RIA

A foreign citizen identified only as E. M. Spector has been jailed on allegations of espionage, RIA news agency reported on Thursday, citing the Lefortovo court in Moscow.

The court declined to provide details of the charges, saying they were classified. If convicted, Spector faces 10-20 years in prison.

According to unconfirmed media reports, Spector is an American citizen of Russian origin, and may be the same Eugene “Gene” Spector convicted of bribery charges in 2021. 

RIA noted that “a man with similar initials” was sentenced by the Ostankino court in June that year to four years in a maximum-security colony. The charges involved mediating a large bribe to Anastasia Alekseeva, formerly an assistant to Arkady Dvorkovich, a deputy prime minister from 2012 to 2018. After that sentence was overturned on appeal, Spector received a sentence of three and a half years in a new trial in 2022.

News of Spector’s arrest comes a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken phoned Paul Whelan, a former US Marine convicted of espionage in 2020. The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) alleged that Whelan accepted a flash drive from one of its undercover agents, believing it contained a classified list of its active-duty members.

Whelan’s defense argued he was after photos from an event he had attended, that he was a victim of entrapment, and that the entire trial was a “sham.” 

In April, Russia said it caught Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich “red-handed” in attempting to obtain state secrets about military industry operations. He is still in pre-trial detention. Washington considers both Whelan and Gershkovich “wrongfully detained” and is reportedly exploring options to have them freed in a prisoner swap.

Whelan was infamously left out of the December 2022 exchange in which Washington swapped Russian businessman Viktor Bout for convicted drug smuggler and basketball star Brittney Griner.