Speed Reads

another russia controversy

American detained in Moscow for espionage was in Russia for a wedding, his family says

Paul Whelan, the 48-year-old Michigan resident and former Marine arrested in Moscow on Friday for suspected espionage, was in Russia for a wedding, his family said in a statement released today to CNN. "We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being. His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected," the statement reads. Whelan works as the director of global security for a Michigan automotive supplier, and his brother, David, told CNN that Paul Whelan was in Moscow for the wedding of a fellow ex-Marine. He never arrived at the ceremony, and his fate was unknown until yesterday, when news reports of his detention began to emerge.

According to a statement released Monday by the FSB, Russia's intelligence agency, "The investigation department of the Federal Security Service of Russia initiated a criminal case against a U.S. citizen under article 276" — meaning espionage — "of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation." It is unclear what, exactly, Whelan is accused of, but The New York Times reports that his detention comes two weeks after the guilty plea of Maria Butina, the Russian woman accused of working with Moscow to influence American political officials. The Kremlin has denied her guilt, and the Times notes that Russia has been known to detain foreigners for use as bargaining chips.

If convicted, Whelan could face up to 20 years in prison, reports TASS, Russia's state-run news agency.