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Paul Whelan, U.S. citizen, arrested in Russia on spying charges

01 January 2019

The service said in a press release that an American national, Paul Whelan, was detained as part of a special operation. A criminal case has been opened against him. "Journalists in Moscow are saying that this could be a message that Putin is sending President Trump for the New Year, that Russian Federation will be confrontational if needed". Russia's domestic security service has arrested an American on suspicion of espionage.

The U.S. State Department said it was "aware of the detention of a U.S. citizen by Russian authorities" and had received formal notification from the Russian Foreign Ministry.

No other details were immediately available and the United States embassy in Moscow has so far not commented.

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Under Russian law, convictions in spying cases can carry prison terms of up to 20 years.

United States intelligence services have accused Moscow of interfering in the 2016 presidential election and earlier this month convicted Russian Maria Butina of acting as an illegal foreign agent. Butina said in court that she'd been operating as a Kremlin agent as she befriended National Rifle Association leaders and influential US conservatives.

The latest round of sanctions "in response to Russia's continued disregard for global norms", which includes Moscow's suspected interference in the 2016 USA election, were announced earlier this month.

Paul Whelan, U.S. citizen, arrested in Russia on spying charges