Authorities in Russia have detained and opened a criminal case against an American that they say is alleged of spying in Moscow.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) said that it had detained the US citizen last Friday, after he was caught “during an espionage operation.” They did not disclose any further information regarding the suspicions that it has against him.
The state department of the United States said that Russia had informed it regarding the arrest and it expects that Moscow will give representatives some access to see him.
A representative stated: “We have requested this access and expect Russian authorities to provide it.”
The Tass news agency identified the man as Paul Whelan.
In an email that was sent to Reuters, David Whelan confirmed that his brother had been arrested, however, he did not give any more information regarding the arrest.
The family of the American have protested his innocence. They said that he was a retired US Marine who was in Moscow to attend a wedding of another US Marine.
They stated: “We have read reports of the arrest in Moscow of Paul Whelan, our son and brother. Paul is a retired Marine and was visiting Moscow to attend a wedding.”
They said that Whelan stopped communicating with his family on the 28th of December “which was very much out of character for him even when he was travelling.”
His family continued: “We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being. His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected.”
His brother added: “It is inconceivable to me that he would have done anything to break the law in Russia.”
The 48-year-old man can face a maximum of 20 years in a Russian prison under local laws.
The news comes as officials in the United States of America investigate Russian interference in the presidential elections that were held in 2016.
Last month, a Russian national named Maria Butina, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in a deal with prosecutors. She admitted that she has worked to infiltrate conservative activist groups and politicians in America as an agent of Moscow.
Kelly Services, a staffing company which has its headquarters close to the home of Paul Whelan in Troy, Michigan said that a Paul Whelan had worked for the firm up to February 2016.
A spokesperson for the company said that “Kelly has yet to confirm whether this former employee is the same individual reported upon in the news stories.”