UK: Russia is using detainee as a political pawn

Jeremy Hunt

Whelan is an American citizen, but he's also the son of British citizens.

Now, he's under arrest there on espionage allegations.

Before Russia released details of Mr Makarenko's arrest, experts had speculated Moscow could exchange Mr Whelan for Russian nationals held by Washington. He was due to return home on January 6., the brother said.

Also Saturday, the Foreign Ministry said it was seeking information about a Russian who was arrested December 29 in Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, a USA commonwealth in the Pacific.

Paul Whelan was arrested by Russia's Federal Security Service on December 28.

Meanwhile, Russia's deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said it is too early to talk of "the possibility of exchanges" as Mr Whelan is yet to be formally charged, according to the country's news agencies.

His brother David Whelan told the BBC that Paul's knowledge of Russian Federation was the reason why he had been invited to the wedding - to help organise the event and guide other American guests around Moscow's main sights.

Paul Whelan had been in contact with Russians with military backgrounds through the social media website Vkontakte, but his brother said he saw nothing unusual in that.

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It was while serving in the marines that he made his first trip to Russian Federation, a visit he detailed on his website, which has been shut down.

Papers filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida show Makarenko was accused in June 2017 by federal prosecutors of conspiring with another man, Vladimir Nevidomy, to export defense articles including night-vision scopes from the United States to Russian Federation without U.S. approval. The U.S. courts' electronic filing network, Pacer, identifies the man as Dmitrii Makarenko.

"Individuals should not be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage", Hunt said Friday. She was accused of engaging in drug trafficking and money-laundering activities during her brief stay in the U.S. between 2013 and 2016. "Nor do we handle low-level intelligence collection operations in a place like Moscow".

Both Ireland and the United Kingdom have asked that their diplomats be allowed to visit Paul Whelan. He began active duty with the Marines in 2003 and was deployed twice to Iraq, rising to staff sergeant. He specialized in administrative posts. He's getting support services from all four governments. Irish broadcaster RTE suggest Whelan also holds an Irish passport and has sought Irish consular assistance. The military paid for the travel and most service members chose to return home, but others could travel overseas.

Whelan, 48, was discharged from the Marines for bad conduct.

He went on to start Kingsmead Arsenal, an online firearms business, from his Novi, Michigan, home, and worked for Troy, Michigan-based temporary staffing firm Kelly Services until 2017.

"He likes to go places and Russian Federation happens to be a place where he knows people and when he's there, he does go and visit", David Whelan said. BorgWarner, the automotive parts supplier where Whelan works as corporate security director, has said he was not there on business for them. BorgWarner, based in Auburn Hills, Michigan, has facilities around the world but none in Russian Federation and he never traveled to the country for business, company spokeswoman Kathy Graham said. BorgWarner does not have any facilities in Russian Federation.

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