January 04, 2019
Paul Whelan revealed to be dual national after being arrested in Moscow for ‘act of espionage’
Paul Whelan, 48, was reportedly arrested after receiving a USB drive containing a list of names. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
By Kevin Rawlinson
The former US marine who is being held in Moscow on charges of spying is a British citizen, it has emerged.
Paul Whelan, who is thought to be facing 20 years in a Russian prison if convicted, was initially thought to be American, but was revealed to be a dual national on Thursday evening. The UK Foreign Office said: “Our staff have requested consular access to a British man detained in Russia after receiving a request for assistance from him.”
The 48-year-old’s lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, has said he has applied for Whelan to be released on bail, though a decision is not expected soon. According to the Associated Press, Zherebenkov said he visited Whelan on Wednesday and found him in a “very hopeful” mood.
The US ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, met Whelan at Lefortovo prison, the former KGB facility where he is being held, the same day. The ambassador said Washington had complained to the Russian government about the length of time it had taken to grant consular access to Whelan after his arrest.
Whelan works for a Michigan-based car parts supplier and, according to the Rosbalt news agency, was arrested shortly after receiving a USB drive containing a classified list of names. The information could not be independently verified by the Guardian.
His brother, David, said: “We have not had any details from the state department about the circumstances of Paul’s arrest.”
David Whelan has previously said that his brother was in Moscow for the wedding of a fellow former marine. “This visit was entirely for pleasure, from what I understand,” he said. Whelan’s family added that he has been to Russia “numerous times”, as far back as 2007.
The Russian authorities have said little about Whelan’s arrest, save that he had been held accused of “carrying out an act of espionage”.
Published: January 03, 2019