The United States is demanding more details and an explanation on the detainment of an American citizen in Russia, who the Kremlin has accused of spying in Moscow.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters in Brazil on Jan. 2 the U.S. hopes to make contact soon with Paul Whelan, a former U.S. marine.
“We are hopeful within the next hours we will get consular access to see him and get a chance to learn more,” Pompeo said.
Whelan is the director of global security at BorgWarner, a Michigan-based automotive parts supplier, according to a company statement.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Dec. 31 they had opened a criminal case into Whelan about the alleged espionage without providing any further details. Whelan could face 10 to 20 years in prison if found guilty under Russian law.
Pompeo confirmed the U.S. will take further action, depending on what information they receive from Russia.
“We’ve made clear to the Russians our expectation that we will learn more about the charges, come to understand what it is he’s been accused of,” Pompeo said. “And if the detention is not appropriate, we will demand his immediate return.”
The U.S. State Department did not respond to an emailed request for comment. A representative told Reuters Moscow is expected to allow consular access for the department to meet with Whelan.
“Russia’s obligations under the Vienna Convention require them to provide consular access. We have requested this access and expect Russian authorities to provide it,” the representative said, without providing details of the American’s identity or the reasons behind his detention.
The arrest of Whelan comes weeks after Russian national Maria Butina pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy in U.S. federal court, for acting as an agent for the Kremlin without registering in the United States.
Family Rejects Accusations
Paul Whelan’s twin brother said he was in Moscow attending a wedding before he got arrested. His family rejects the espionage accusations by Russian authorities.
“We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being. His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected,” Whelan’s brother, David Whelan, said in a public statement.
David said his family had contacted U.S. authorities after they discovered the arrest.
“We noticed that he was not in communication on the 28th, which was very much out of character for him even when he was traveling,” the statement said. “We learned of his arrest on Monday morning after his detention was picked up on [the] newswires.”
David said his brother had traveled to Russia on numerous occasions either for work or personal business. Paul was with the bride and groom at the wedding he attended but failed to arrive later in the day, prompting the couple to file a missing-person report with Russian authorities.
“Knowing that he’s not dead, it weirdly really helps,” David told CNN. “When we couldn’t get a hold of him initially, we were worried, and we are still worried now but at least we know he is alive.”
Paul served multiple tours with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and was born in Canada to British parents, but lives in Michigan, David said. The State Department confirmed Paul is a U.S. citizen.
“I think there’s really just one goal, which is … to get Paul back home,” David said.
From The Epoch Times