Russia on Friday mentioned American Paul Whelan, who was arrested final month in Moscow, has been formally charged with espionage.

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Whelan was charged beneath Article 276 of Russia’s felony code, Russian International Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova informed reporters at a televised briefing.

Whelan, a former United States Marine, was detained Dec. 28 by Russia’s home intelligence company, the FSB, which accused him of espionage. His Russian lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, has mentioned Whelan contests the cost and intends to plead not responsible.

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PHOTO: Paul Whelan is pictured in this undated photo released by his family.Whelan household
Paul Whelan is pictured on this undated photograph launched by his household.

Russian information company Interfax reported on Jan. three that Whelan had been formally charged, citing nameless safety service sources. However Zakharova’s feedback on Friday have been Russia’s first public affirmation of it.

Russia has nonetheless not offered any particulars of the cost towards Whelan. Saying his arrest, the FSB mentioned he had been detained whereas conducting “spying exercise” however has not elaborated.

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The overseas ministry spokeswoman additionally mentioned Friday that exchanging Whelan for anybody imprisoned exterior Russia was not being thought of.

“I might prefer to underline that the change of Paul Whelan for anybody incarcerated overseas is at the moment not on the desk,” Zakharova mentioned, in keeping with Russian information company Interfax. “The defendant will stand trial.”

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PHOTO: Russian Foreign Ministrys spokeswoman Maria Zakharova speaks to the media during her weekly briefing in Moscow.Anton Denisov/Sputnik by way of AP
Russian International Ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova speaks to the media throughout her weekly briefing in Moscow.

Some former U.S. intelligence officers have speculated Whelan might have been taken in retaliation over the jailing of Maria Butina, the Russian gun rights activist who final month pleaded responsible in a U.S. courtroom to performing as a overseas agent. She has admitted to attempting to infiltrate American conservative political circles.

Zherebenkov has urged that Whelan may later be exchanged for Russians held in U.S. jails, together with Butina. He famous, nonetheless, that Whelan may solely be traded as soon as he has been convicted.

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