Moscow has granted the US consular access to Paul Whelan, an American citizen suspected of espionage, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
Shortly before that, US State Secretary Mike Pompeo said that the US demanded the immediate return of the detained Paul Whelan if his detention 'is not appropriate'. The official noted that currently, Washington is seeking an explanation of why he was arrested.
"With respect to Mr. Whelan, who’s being held, we are hopeful within the next hours we will get consular access to see him and get a chance to learn more," Pompeo said. "We’ve made clear to the Russians our expectation that we will learn more about the charges, come to understand what it is he’s been accused of, and if the detention is not appropriate, we will demand his immediate return."
Reporting about the Whelan's arrest, the Russian Security Service (FSB) announced that Whelan had been arrested on December 28 during a "spy action in Moscow" and a criminal investigation over possible espionage had been launched.
The article, according to which the criminal case was initiated, allows for punishment in the form of imprisonment for a term of 10 to 20 years.
Commenting on the issue, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that the US Embassy had been notified of the detention of its citizen in accordance with consular convention. This was also confirmed by a representative of the US State Department, who said that the Russian Foreign Ministry has officially notified the US of the detention of an American citizen in Moscow.
Paul's twin brother David Whelan claimed in his interview to CNN that he was not guilty and said he travelled to Moscow to attend a wedding ceremony. According to David, Paul was a retired marine who served several tours in Iraq.
As Washington Post reported, that in 2008 Paul Whelan was dismissed from the US Marine Corps for misbehaviour, after being convicted of several counts of larceny.