Paul Whelan detained in Russian Federation on suspicion of spying may hold passports of other countries apart from the United States and British citizenship, a source in Russia's Foreign Ministry told TASS on Friday. Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB, arrested him December 28, and then waited several days before declaring it had snared Whelan in the middle of a spy mission.
Mr Whelan faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of espionage.
Whelan's British citizenship introduces a new political dimension: ties between London and Moscow have been toxic since the poisoning in Britain of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
"I believe the British citizenship and American citizenship are not the last", he said. A representative of the British embassy in Russian Federation confirmed to TASS that Whelan detained on suspicion of espionage holds a British passport, and that London had requested consular access to him.
The details of the charges against Paul Whelan from a special court-martial that resulted in his discharge for bad conduct add to an increasingly complex picture of the former Marine, whom Russian officials have accused of spying.
The Canadian CBC broadcaster quoted a Canadian foreign ministry spokesperson Wednesday as saying that "consular officials are aware that a Canadian citizen has been arrested in Russian Federation". Russian Foreign Ministry said that the request of the British side is under consideration.
"We are all extremely anxious about him and his family", Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC in an interview.
Since leaving the US military, Whelan had worked as a global security executive with USA companies, had visited Russia and had developed a network of Russian acquaintances.
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Reuters contributed reporting to this article.
David Whelan said he doubted his brother was a spy. He has developed social media contacts with everyday Russians - including hairdressers and former military personnel - on sites including Vkontakte, the Russian version of Facebook. Russian media reported Thursday that Whelan had been formally indicted for spying and the Interfax news agency said he denied the allegation. Paul Whelan was in Moscow to help plan the wedding of another former Marine because he had been to Russian Federation several times before, the brother said. "We urge the U.S. Congress and the State Department to help on Paul's behalf to secure his release and return him home soon", the family said.
He was born in Canada and moved to the US, where he served in the military.
"We need to see what these charges are against him and understand whether there is a case or not". His brother, David, told U.S. media outlets that Paul had traveled to Moscow to attend a friend's wedding.
Whelan is a former US Marine, who worked as a security director for BorgWarner, a major Michigan-based vehicle parts manufacturer. One thing (the Russians) are very good at is contriving evidence.
Whelan's lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, did not comment on the charges but said that under the terms of his arrest, Whelan was expected to remain in pretrial custody in Moscow until at least February 28.
Russian national Maria Butina admitted last month to USA prosecutors that she had tried to infiltrate American conservative groups as an agent for Moscow. The U.S.is leading the effort.
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.