American arrested in Russia on spy charges | News Coverage from USA

American arrested in Russia on spy charges

An American has been arrested in Moscow on espionage charges that could result in 20 years in prison, Russian authorities said Monday.

“On December 28, 2018 staff members of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) detained US citizen Paul Whelan in Moscow while on a spy mission,” the FSB said in a statement.

A criminal investigation has been launched, and the FSB said Whelan could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the U.S. Embassy in Moscow was informed “in a timely manner of the detention.” The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.

More: Maria Butina pleads guilty to conspiracy as agent of Russia in USA

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The Russian announcement came one day after President Vladimir Putin released a holiday greeting to President Donald Trump that stressed the importance of Russia-U.S. relations in “ensuring strategic stability and international security.” The one-sentence message also “reaffirmed that Russia is open to dialogue with the United States on the most extensive agenda.”

Earlier this month, Russian national Maria Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as an agent for the Kremlin without registering in the United States. Butina also agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors. 

U.S.-Russian relations have been battered by controversy despite Trump’s frequent praise of Putin. Scores of Russian diplomats were expelled this year in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain that was linked to the Kremlin.

And special counsel Robert Mueller’s  investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election has brought scrutiny on communications between Trump’s inner circle and Russian operatives.

 

 

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