Bail Sought for Former Marine Held in Moscow for Alleged Spying

Outside of the Lefortovo detention centre in Moscow where Paul Whelan is being held. His lawyer has meanwhile asked for bail

Whelan, a former staff sergeant with the Marines in Iraq, has visited Russian Federation since at least 2007.

Mr Whelan's family has said that he was visiting Moscow for the wedding of a fellow former Marine, and that he had been to Russian Federation "numerous times" since 2007.

There is still plenty of mystery surrounding Whelan's case.

Whelan has been visiting Russian Federation since at least 2007, when he took advantage of a military program for Marines deployed in Iraq that gave them 15 days of leave and paid for the travel.

The company said Whelan was "responsible for overseeing security at our facilities in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and at other company locations around the world". He appealed the ruling but the service upheld the conviction.

His military record shows he was discharged for bad conduct due to allegedly kiting checks.

David Whelan said he doubted his brother was a spy.

Embassies of four countries are trying to assist ex-U.S.

"Our focus remains on ensuring that Paul is safe, well treated, has a good lawyer, and is coming home", his family said in a statement.

"We are extremely anxious about Paul Whelan, we have offered consular assistance".

Initial reports also suggested that Whelan, who was born to British parents in Ottawa before eventually settling in MI, may hold a Canadian passport.

Britain and Russia's relationship sharply deteriorated past year after a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, was poisoned in England with a nerve agent and spent months recovering.

United Kingdom foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed that the British embassy in Moscow had also offered consular assistance to the former soldier, who previously served in Iraq as a staff sergeant with the Marines.

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The minimal amount of information provided by Russia - where many offices are closed until after the Russian Orthodox Church marks Christmas on Monday - only adds to the intrigue.

Earlier this week, NPR asked John Sipher, a former member of the CIA's Clandestine Service who worked in Moscow, whether Whelan fits the profile of an American spy working inside Russian Federation - to which Sipher replied, "Absolutely not".

Putin has previously stated he would rein in Russian retaliatory measures against US interests in the hope relations would improve, but Whelan's detention indicates the Kremlin's calculations may now have changed.

In December, Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring with a senior Russian official to infiltrate US conservative groups. Butina, 30, is the first Russian national to be convicted of seeking to influence US policy in the run-up to the 2016 election by acting as a foreign agent.

Shortly before Butina pleaded guilty, Russian President Vladimir Putin said she was not known to any of his spy agencies. The Foreign Ministry has gone to great lengths to paint Butina as a political prisoner, notably by launching a wide-ranging social media campaign.

"We are all extremely anxious about him and his family", Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC in an interview.

"We are giving every support we can, but we don't agree with individuals being used in diplomatic chess games".

The Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, has said MI resident Whelan, a 48-year-old corporate security director from the Detroit area, was arrested on espionage charges. Media reports said that Whelan also carried passports from Canada and Ireland. "He collected them as a game. We need to see what these charges are against him and understand whether there is a case or not", Hunt said.

Mr Whelan, 48, was arrested in Moscow last week apparently on espionage charges.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this week Washington had asked Moscow to explain Whelan's arrest and would demand his immediate return if it determined his detention is inappropriate.

US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr. visited Whelan in Moscow's Lefortovo Prison on Wednesday and offered support and assistance, though he refused to discuss the case in detail.

Ferris-Rotman reported from Moscow.

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