Britain cautions Russian Federation not to use detained ex-US marine as pawn

05 January, 2019, 08:07 | Author: Rachel Logan
  • Paul Whelan

His military record shows he was discharged for bad conduct due to allegedly kiting checks. Broadly speaking, the military seeks to prevent officers from having outstanding debts that could offer adversaries leverage in espionage or blackmail.

But that hasn't stopped Russian officials from arresting Whelan to use as a likely bargaining chip for a Russian national, Maria Butina, recently prosecuted in the United States for her role in infiltrating US political organizations.

In December, Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring with a senior Russian official to infiltrate USA conservative groups.

"Our focus remains on ensuring that Paul is safe, well treated, has a good lawyer, and is coming home", his family said in a statement. That means those four countries are stepping in to help.

Mr Whelan is a retired Marine who has British citizenship through his parents.

Both Britain and Ireland are now seeking consular access to Whelan, who is being held in a detention facility on the outskirts of Moscow.

Accusations made by former foreign secretary Boris Johnson that the Kremlin was behind the nerve agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury previous year were dismissed by Vladimir Putin.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman at the Russian Foreign Ministry, confirmed that British officials have applied for consular access to Whelan.

The minimal amount of information provided by Russia - where many offices are closed until after the Russian Orthodox Church marks Christmas on Monday - only adds to the intrigue.

Butina is a Russian gun activist, who was arrested in the U.S. in July and eventually pleaded guilty to working as a foreign agent without proper registration.

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In December, Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring with a senior Russian official to infiltrate USA conservative groups. In the time since Whelan's detention was made public, several governments have acted on his behalf, bringing to light his ties to countries other than the U.S.

Shortly before Butina pleaded guilty, Putin said she was not known to any of his spy agencies.

The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release.

The foreign secretary said former USA marine Paul Whelan, who was born in Canada to British parents and lives in MI, was being given "every support that we can".

"We don't agree with individuals being used in diplomatic chess games".

The US Embassy in Moscow advised the British Embassy in Moscow on Thursday that a US citizen detained by the Russian authorities on December 28 informed them that he holds British citizenship, and therefore requested consular assistance from the UK.

Whelan holds passports from three other countries-Ireland, Canada, and the United Kingdom-extending the worldwide fallout from his arrest. "He collected them as a game. We need to see what those charges are against him to understand whether there is a case or not", Hunt said.

Since Russia accused United States citizen Paul Whelan of espionage and detained him last week, curious details about the 48-year-old's personal life continue to trickle out.

Washington has pushed for an explanation to Mr Whelan's detention.

Earlier this week, Jon Huntsman, the United States ambassador to Russian Federation, visited the former Marine in the detention facility in Moscow where he is being held.

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