Russian investigative agencies on Thursday formally charged Paul Whelan, a former Marine, with spying, according to Interfax, a Russian news agency.
“An indictment has been presented. Whelan dismisses it,” a source familiar with the case told Interfax.
Whelan, 48, was arrested Dec. 28 during a visit to Russia. The Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, announced the charges Dec. 31.
Rosbalt, a Russian news agency considered close to Russia’s security services, alleged Thursday that Whelan was arrested after soliciting classified information on Russian security officials. Citing anonymous sources, Rosbalt reported Whelan received a memory stick containing the information during a meeting with a Russian national at a hotel in Moscow.
Paul Whelan, whom Russia accuses of spying, is a Trump-supporting, Spartak Moscow fan who recently lost a cat named Mittens, according to the Vkontakte account he appears to have operated for more than a decade. pic.twitter.com/kCKaZHTAku
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) January 1, 2019
Whelan’s twin brother, David, disputed the espionage allegations. He said Paul frequently visited Russia and was there for a wedding. (RELATED: CNN Grills Brother Of Detained American About His Anti-CNN Social Media Posts)
Numerous Russia experts suggested Whelan is being held in retaliation for the indictment against Maria Butina, a 30-year-old Russian national who pleaded guilty Dec. 13 to acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Russia. Butina acknowledged in her plea agreement she worked at the direction of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank, to infiltrate conservative political groups in the U.S.
Butina also coordinated with an American citizen believed to be her boyfriend, a GOP operative named Paul Erickson.
Whelan’s attorney, Vladimir Zherebenkov, asked a judge in Moscow to grant Whelan bail. He will remain in custody until at least Feb. 28.
The New York Times reported Whelan was court-martialed in 2008 on larceny charges and discharged for bad conduct. He has worked since then as international head of security for BorgWarner, a Michigan-based auto parts supplier.
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