Russian Federation says U.S. 'spy' Paul Whelan caught red-handed, denies prisoner swap

Arturo Kim
January 18, 2019

His family have argued he is innocent and said that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

He said Whelan was caught red-handed and the investigation is ongoing.

"He was detained at the moment he was carrying out specific illegal actions in his hotel".

Lavrov said the investigation into Whelan will continue and dismissed reports that the country arrested him so he could be swapped for one of the Russians held in the US like Maria Butina, who pleaded guilty to acting as a foreign agent in the U.S.

Commenting on the situation in Syria, Lavrov said that Moscow expects the Syrian government to take over territory in the country's east following the planned US military withdrawal.

"Investigation is in progress, if your question assumes that his arrest may be tied to the desire to exchange (Paul) Whelan for one of our citizens - this is absolutely untrue, we never practice these kinds of things", he stated.

Paul Whelan's family is insisting that he is innocent and was in Russian Federation for a wedding.

The FSB has opened a criminal case against Whelan but given no details of his alleged activities.

Mr Whelan faces up to 20 years in jail if found guilty of espionage.

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"It's hard for me to comment on what is happening in the USA surrounding accusations that President Trump is effectively a Russian agent", Lavrov said at his annual press conference in Moscow on Wednesday.

Russian men with military education or a history of military service make up almost half of Whelan's more than 50 friends on VK, a popular Russian social network that resembles Facebook, the analysis by Reuters shows.

Asked if Russia could release the minutes of Mr Trump's one-on-one negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Lavrov dismissed the idea, saying it defied the basic culture of diplomacy.

Whelan lives in Novi, Michigan, according to public records.

Without agreement between Moscow and Washington, a US withdrawal over six months will start on February 2.

The same source was quoted as saying that Whelan had been spying for 10 years using the internet to identify targets from whom he could obtain information and that the employee list he was caught with had always been of interest to USA spies.

"How can a president of the United States be an agent of another country, just think yourself", Ushakov said at a briefing.

Mr Whelan holds citizenship from Ireland, the US, Britain, and Canada, and Mr Lavrov said Russian Federation would allow consular visits.

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