United Kingdom warns Russian Federation against 'chess games' over alleged spy

Jeremy Hunt

Image Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says he is 'extremely worried' about Mr Whelan

His case grew more perplexing after Ireland became the fourth nation to acknowledge him as a citizen and.

Britain warned Russian Federation on Friday against playing "diplomatic chess games" following the arrest of Paul Whelan, an ex-Marine with dual United Kingdom and U.S. citizenship, on charges of espionage.

Whelan is a former U.S. Marine who lives in the state of MI and is director of global security at BorgWarner, a U.S. -based supplier of automotive parts and components.

The U.S. State Department said U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman visited Whelan at a detention facility in Moscow on January 2 and spoke by phone with his family.

Russian media say Whelan has been formally indicted for spying and could face up to 20 years in prison.

Whelan served as an administrative chief during in the Marines - a job akin to office management that would have given him access to certain sensitive systems, likely including those the service uses to issue orders and hand out awards. The defense has also appeal the court ruling to hold him in jail without bail, calling the measure excessive. The special court-martial, however, found him not guilty of that charge.

The Marines gave Whelan, who served two tours in Iraq, a bad conduct discharge in 2008 over accusations of theft. Broadly speaking, the military seeks to prevent officers from having outstanding debts that could offer adversaries leverage in espionage or blackmail.

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Whelan's brother David told CBS News that Whelan traveled to Russian Federation on December 22 for a friend's wedding. He expressed gratitude to the USA ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, for his assistance.

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"We are extremely anxious about Paul Whelan, we have offered consular assistance".

Whelan, 48, had four passports because of his complicated lineage, Local 4 has learned.

Diplomatic relations between Britain and Russia are tense, particularly following the attempted murder of a former Russian spy in Britain past year with a nerve agent.

Britain alleges Skripal was poisoned by Russian intelligence agents posing as tourists, while Russia denies any involvement. Russia's top officials have many times criticized Butina's arrest, calling it politically motivated, but insisted that the woman never had any ties with the Kremlin.

A Russian national, Maria Butina, admitted last month to US prosecutors that she had tried to infiltrate American conservative groups as an agent for Moscow.

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At the time , the FSB said Whelan had been detained "during an act of espionage " but did not provide any details. Russian authorities said that, if convicted, Whelan could face between 10 and 20 years in a Russian prison.

In December, Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring with a senior Russian official to infiltrate US conservative groups. Butina, 30, is the first Russian national to be convicted of seeking to influence USA policy in the run-up to the 2016 election by acting as a foreign agent.

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.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he is extremely anxious about Paul Whelan.

"We are giving every support we can, but we don't agree with individuals being used in diplomatic chess games", he continued.

CNN, citing Whelan's lawyer in Russia, Vladimir Zherebenkov, reported that Whelan "has been charged and detained. since the day of his arrest".

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