Former U.S. marine Paul Whelan was arrested in Moscow on the accusation of being a spy. But is that the case? Or is Russia trying to gain some leverage on the U.S.?
Family of Whelan offer that he is innocent and was only in Moscow to attend a wedding.
Contradicting that, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated during a news conference that Russia had caught Whelan “red-handed” and that “he was detained at the moment he was carrying out specific illegal actions in his hotel.”
A website for Russian news had also claimed that Whelan had been a spy for 10 years and that he was detained after receiving a drive that allegedly contained a complete list of employees for a Russian government agency.
However, this could all be a ploy by Russia. There are those who suspect that this is retaliation from Russia over the apprehension of Maria Butina or the scrutiny applied to Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya.
Lavrov denied all claims that Russia was detaining Whelan to facilitate an exchange for Russian citizens. Yet the capture does seem oddly coincidental.
Adding to the intrigue is Whelan’s history. Discharged from the Marines for larceny, the U.S. citizen not only has an American passport, but also passports from Britain, Canada and Ireland.
If Whelan is found guilty he faces up to 20 years in Russian prison.