Too early to consider exchange of US spy suspect

07 January 2019 | International

Russia's deputy foreign minister brushed back suggestions Saturday that an American being held in Moscow on suspicion of spying could be exchanged for a Russian citizen.

The brother of Paul Whelan, however, tells The Associated Press that he can't help but question whether the events are indeed connected.

“You look at what's going on and you wonder if this is just a large game of pieces being moved around,” David Whelan told the AP via Skype from Newmarket, Ontario. “You start to wonder if all of these things are connected. But at the same time, they could just be arbitrary events.”

Paul Whelan, a former US Marine who also holds Canadian, British and Irish citizenship, was detained in Moscow in late December. His arrest has led to speculation that Russia could be using him to bargain for a Russian who pleaded guilty to acting as a foreign agent in the United States. Deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said that discussing a possible swap involving Whelan and Maria Butina would be premature because Whelan hasn't been formally charged, according to Russian news agencies. “As to the possibility of exchanges of one sort of another, it's impossible and incorrect to consider the question now when an official charge hasn't even been presented,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying by state news agency RIA-Novosti.

“Charges will be presented in the near future,” he said, according to the Interfax agency.

Some Russian news reports earlier cited unnamed sources as saying Whelan had been indicted on espionage charges that carry a possible prison sentence of 20 years.

Officials haven't given details of Whelan's suspected activities and he was initially identified only as an American. His concurrent Canadian, British and Irish citizenships became known on Friday.

US Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. visited Whelan on Wednesday in Moscow's Lefortovo prison, a 130-year-old facility noted for strict conditions. Britain, Canada and Ireland have applied for consular access to him. Whelan, 48, was discharged from the Marines for bad conduct. He works as the global security director for a US automobile parts manufacturer and lives in Michigan. His family has said he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

His brother, David, told the AP that Whelan loves to travel and likes to “interact with the people in the places that he goes,” but that Whelan would be too “conspicuous” to be selected as a spy. David Whelan said his family had had no direct contact with Paul and had received no details about the espionage charges from either the Russian or US governments.

“He likes to go places and Russia happens to be a place where he knows people and when he's there, he does go and visit,” David Whelan said.

Paul Whelan established an account on VKontakte, a social media service similar to Facebook that is popular among Russians, which showed he had scores of contacts in Russia. Many attended universities affiliated with the military, civil aviation or technical studies. Many share his interest in sports and firearms.

Also Saturday, the foreign ministry said it was seeking information about a Russian who was arrested on 29 December in Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, a United States commonwealth in the Pacific.

In a statement, the ministry said Sergei Makarenko was sent to the US state of Florida after his arrest and it wants consular access to him.

The Saipan Tribune reported that Makarenko was indicted in 2017 in Florida for the alleged illegal shipment of military goods to Russia.

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the international affairs committee of the upper house of the Russian parliament, said Makarenko's arrest was “the latest attack on a citizen of Russia outside the frame work of international law,” Interfax reported.



NAMPA/AP

Similar News

 

Idai wreaks havoc

3 days ago - 20 March 2019 | International

More than 1 000 people were feared dead in Mozambique four days after a cyclone slammed into the country, submerging entire villages and leaving bodies...

Trump shows SADC the middle finger

2 weeks ago - 07 March 2019 | International

US president Donald Trump has renewed sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by another year, snubbing SADC leaders, including current regional bloc chairperson President Hage Geingob, who...

On the road to recovery

3 weeks ago - 28 February 2019 | International

The newly elected president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Felix Tshisekedi, says his government's first priority is to bring peace and stability to...

Geingob castigated over Zim

1 month - 21 February 2019 | International

The 'Concerned Citizens of Zimbabwe' has criticised President Hage Geingob for his recent statement on the political and socio-economic situation in the neighbouring country.During a...

It must be win-win, Mr Ambassador - Venaani

1 month - 12 February 2019 | International

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani says there is a need for an overhaul of China-Namibia relations, so that Namibia benefits as an equal...

SADC breaks silence on Zim

1 month - 12 February 2019 | International

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has finally made a statement on the situation in Zimbabwe, which is experiencing a crumbling economy, human rights violations...

Humanitarian aid used as weapon in Maduro-Guaido conflict

1 month - 11 February 2019 | International

Desperately needed aid being stockpiled at Venezuela's door is at the heart of a political duel between the two men fighting to lead the oil-rich...

Quiet diplomacy is not working

1 month - 05 February 2019 | International

SADC's quiet diplomacy is not helping the situation in Zimbabwe and the regional body must publicly condemn the human rights violations and address the legitimacy...

Guaido vs Maduro

1 month - 04 February 2019 | International

Buoyed by the defection of a top general, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido predicted Saturday the month of February would be “decisive” in determining the...

El Chapo drugged and raped teenage girls, witness claims

1 month - 04 February 2019 | International

A witness in the trial of Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman told the US government the Mexican drug kingpin drugged and raped girls as young as...

Latest News

Namibians first!

1 day - 22 March 2019 | Business

The Construction Industries Federation (CIF) of Namibia has proposed that bidders with less than 100% ownership by Namibian citizens should be disqualified from bidding for...

2019 ‘to-do’ lists for business...

1 day - 22 March 2019 | Columns

Getting your business off to a great start in a new year requires planning, critical thinking and dedication to executing your strategy.We asked Forbes Coaches...

A fierce corporate climber

1 day - 22 March 2019 | People

Carlota David-Howoses was born and grew up in Rundu.She attended Noordgrens Secondary School in Rundu, then moved over to Etosha Secondary School in Tsumeb and...

We are at a crossroads

1 day - 22 March 2019 | Opinion

I remember when I turned 29. The battle scars were starting to show. There were hard decisions. The hangovers of 'nice times' and the gay...

Pupkewitz Megaboards opens door

1 day - 22 March 2019 | Business

Pupkewitz Megabuild recently opened a new subsidiary, Pupkewitz Megaboards. “Pupkewitz Megabuild continues to expand its product and service offering in line with the Pupkewitz Group’s...

Satrix lists ETFs on local...

1 day - 22 March 2019 | Business

Satrix on Tuesday announced its secondary listing of its global exchange traded funds (ETFs) suite on the Namibian Stock Exchange (NSX).The listing is the first...

Corruption - A social disease...

1 day - 22 March 2019 | Columns

Johan Coetzee - One of the most popular indices used by investors to provide them with an indication of the level of corruption and governance...

Government pharmaceutical plant on hold

1 day - 22 March 2019 | Health

Government's plan to construct a pharmaceutical plant is on hold until various agreements are reached with private sector partners involved in the project.This is according...

Local content top priority

1 day - 22 March 2019 | Economics

A 'buy local' policy with local content requirements will, in the long run, help smaller businesses to sell goods and services to government.This was the...

Load More