News agency Interfax has confirmed that Russian authorities have brought espionage charges against an American citizen, Paul Whelan, who faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Russian investigative agencies have indicted U.S. citizen Paul Whelan for spying, an informed source told Interfax on Thursday.
“An indictment has been presented. Whelan dismisses it,” the source said.
It had been reported earlier that Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officials detained Whelan in Moscow on suspicion of spying on December 28.
“The FSB’s Investigative Directorate opened a criminal case against the U.S. citizen under Russian Criminal Code Article 276 (espionage),” the FSB told Interfax on December 31.
The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris go over the explosive story of espionage in Moscow, and the reasons why Paul Whelan may indeed be a spy, and how Russian authorities may have been tipped off of espionage activities courtesy of Atlantic Council-funded site Bellingcat.
Via The New York Times…
Mr. Whelan’s lawyer, Vladimir A. Zherebenkov, who said he spent much of Wednesday with Mr. Whelan, said he had found his client in an upbeat mood despite the long legal road that he faces.
“I was surprised to see him being so confident,” said Mr. Zherebenkov, a high-profile criminal defense lawyer.
Mr. Whelan, 48, the head of global security for the Michigan auto parts maker BorgWarner and a Marine Corps veteran, was arrested last Friday and is being held in solitary confinement in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison. Russia’s domestic security agency, the F.S.B., issued a brief statement on Monday saying that Mr. Whelan had been caught in “an act of espionage” but provided no other details.
Mr. Zherebenkov said that he had not seen all the evidence, but that he suspected that the American had been under surveillance for some time.
“I presume that he is innocent, because for now I haven’t seen any evidence against him that would prove otherwise,” said Mr. Zherebenkov, who said that Mr. Whelan would petition the court for bail.
Rosbalt, a Russian news agency close to the security services, quoted an unidentified intelligence source on Wednesday as saying that Mr. Whelan had been apprehended during a meeting with a Russian citizen in his room at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. He is accused of trying to recruit this person to obtain classified information about staff members at various Russian agencies, the account said.
Mr. Whelan was arrested five minutes after receiving a USB stick containing a list of all the employees at a classified security agency, the report said.
Unusually for an occasional visitor to Russia, Mr. Whelan had an account on Vkontakte, the Russian version of Facebook, for about a decade. The account showed that he was last active at 4:55 p.m. on Dec. 28, the day the F.S.B. said he was arrested.
Rosbalt quoted its security source as saying it was considered odd that Mr. Whelan did not use the social media site to try to meet women. Rather, he sought to ingratiate himself into the lives of his contacts on the site.
Most of those contacts seemed to be men with some sort of connection to academies run by the Russian Navy, the Ministry of Defense or the Civil Aviation Authority.
Mr. Whelan’s family said that he had been in Russia to attend the wedding of a friend from the Marine Corps who was marrying a Russian woman at the storied Metropol Hotel. Mr. Whelan knew his way around Moscow, they said, and offered to help wedding guests navigate the city.
Russians who knew him via social media sites over the past decade said he seemed to pop up every six months or so and enjoyed traveling around Russia, especially by train. Not all of them met him in person, however, so it remained unclear just how often he had visited. One contact said that on this trip, Mr. Whelan had written that he had planned to stay in Moscow through the New Year and then head for St. Petersburg.
After he was purportedly arrested while “carrying out an act of espionage”, Russia has formally indicted US citizen Paul Whelan, a 48-year-old US Marine and head of global security at autoparts maker BorgWarner, for being a spy, according to a report in Russian news agency Interfax being cited by US media.
Whelan was arrested by Russia’s security services Dec. 28 while in Moscow on a personal trip. Whelan’s Russian lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov, who was appointed to represent him, said earlier Thursday that the American will remain in custody in Moscow until the end of February.
While many US security analysts have speculated that Whelan might be used as a bargaining chip by Moscow to secure the return of Maria Butina, who pleaded guilty to trying to acting on behalf of the Kremlin to infiltrate the NRA to “establish unofficial lines of communication” with Washington, others have pointed out that the charges suggest that Whelan was probably genuinely suspected of espionage.
Here are seven reasons why the allegations against Whelan might be true:
He was in Iraq in 2004 and 2006, started visiting Russia for business and pleasure immediately after (according to his brother) in 2007 which was a year before he was convicted in court martial on charges related to larceny.
He was in Russia to attend a wedding of a former marine to a Russian girl. He arrived on December 22nd and was scheduled to depart on January 6th… a totally normal amount of time to be in town for a wedding.
He joined the marines in 1994 and served until his discharge in 2008. Yet his brother says he has been going there since 07 for business and pleasure.
The U.S. ambassador already visited him in prison, normal citizens do not get that treatment. The US governments response has been consistent with past incidences of spy’s being caught.
The FSB has said little but claims he was caught red handed, which, in past cases of US spies being caught has implied he was caught in the act. There’s thousands of Americans in Russia and thousands of Russians in America. Even if they wanted a bargaining chip for Maria Butina they wouldn’t take a random private citizen, they’d want an equal bargaining chip for a swap. Similar to when Skripal and 3 others got swapped for a group of Russian spies caught in the US. It’s bad PR to try and swap a tourist for your spy that got caught.
“Paul Whelan, his brother said, has been visiting Russia for business and pleasure since 2007, working in corporate security, with automotive industry components firm BorgWarner his most recent employer.” Highly unlikely a 24 year marine who fought in Iraq and was not known to be an intel officer in the marines, or a know background in Russian would be traveling to Russia for work in every job he’s had, while also regularly visiting for pleasure since the moment he left the military.
Bill Browder the US/UK citizen behind the magnitsky act, who Putin’s been trying to arrest/kill for years was always charged on tax evasion, neither the US nor Russia uses spy charges on private citizens/tourist. It’s extremely unlikely you could do something that would be mistakenly interpreted by a foreign government as an act of espionage.
While the exact circumstances surrounding his arrest aren’t yet known, one Russian news agency cited by the NYTquoted an unidentified intelligence source on Wednesday who said that Whelan had been arrested during a meeting with a Russian citizen in his room at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.