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

The American former Marine who is being held in Moscow on spying charges also holds British, Irish and Canadian citizenship, officials said, and Britain's foreign secretary charged Friday that Russian Federation is trying to use him as a pawn in its geopolitical games.

Russian news agency TASS reported that a criminal investigation has been opened against Whelan on charges of espionage.

"Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be disclosed".

In a statement issued this afternoon, Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs said: "The Embassy of Ireland in Moscow has requested consular access to an Irish citizen now detained in Russian Federation after receiving a request for assistance". Members of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow were given access to Whelan and confirmed that he is safe, the family said in a statement Friday.

Separately, Irish broadcaster RTE reported Whelan also holds an Irish passport and is seeking consular assistance from Ireland, as well.

Hunt adds that "we are extremely anxious about him and his family". Alleging that Whelan had been detained "during a spy action in Moscow", the FSB offered few other details on the case.

The details of the charges against Whelan from a special court-martial that resulted in his discharge for bad conduct two years later add to an increasingly complex picture of the 48-year-old former Marine, whom Russian officials have accused of spying.

Whelan is now in detention, awaiting trial on charges of espionage.

"We are giving every support we can, but we don't agree with individuals being used in diplomatic chess games", he continued. American ambassador Jon Huntsman, visited Whelan in detention and told the family that the man was doing OK. His case grew more perplexing on Friday after Ireland became the fourth nation to acknowledge him as a citizen and seek consular access.

USA intelligence officials accuse Russian Federation of meddling in US elections - a charge Russian Federation denies.

The plot thickens in the case of a former US Marine who was detained on spying charges in Russian Federation before the New Year. His family have said he is innocent and was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

Whelan's brother, David Whelan, said in an interview that he had no idea why his brother was targeted by the Russian security services.

His twin, David Whelan, said his brother's "innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected".

Image: There are suspicions the arrest may be used to set up an exchange for Maria Butina.

He says the family's "focus remains on ensuring that Paul is safe, well treated, has a good lawyer, and is coming home".

Whelan's arrest came two weeks after Russian gun-rights activist Maria Butina pleaded guilty in the United States to conspiring to act as a foreign agent by trying to infiltrate conservative circles and the National Rifle Association to influence USA politics.

Whelan's family has denied he is a spy and said he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was extremely anxious about Whelan, who was detained by Russia's FSB state security service in Moscow a week ago on suspicion of spying.

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

Russian Federation has angrily denied involvement in the poisonings.

  • Rogelio Becker