News agency Interfax has reported that former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan has been held in Russia and charged with espionage.
The Russian Federal Security Service or FSB detained the 48-year-old Whelan while he was allegedly “on a spy mission.”
The accusation is exceptionally serious and if convicted Whelan could face a possible 20 years in Russian prison.
A case against Whelan has been opened by the FSB, but as it stands no details have been given of his alleged espionage activities.
Reuters got in contact with the lawyer for Whelan, Vladimir Zherebenkov, who stated Whelan would likely remain in custody until at least Feb. 28th.
“I consider his detention and arrest baseless. It’s based on investigators’ supposition that he will hinder the investigation process. We are asking for bail instead,” Zherebenkov explained via telephone to Reuters.
In response, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. had requested an explanation for Whelan’s arrest, and depending on the reply would demand his prompt release.
Family of Whelan has said that he was in Moscow foley to attend the wedding of a retired Marine and is innocent of all and any charges.
This comes as tension continues to mount between Russia and the United States. Among accusations of meddling with elections and possible collusion with President Trump, most recently Russian citizen Maria Butina was arrested by the U.S. for being an agent of Russia.
There are many who speculate that the arrest of Whelan is a possible Russian set up in order to trade for Butina.