Whelan's family has denied he is a spy and said he was in Moscow to attend a wedding. A Russian lawmaker, meanwhile, hinted Friday that the detainee could possibly be swapped for a Russian woman who has pleaded guilty to trying to influence USA politics. Marine Paul Whelan as he remains a Moscow prison over allegations of espionage.
Earlier reports said that Whelan also holds British citizenship. A criminal investigation was opened against him on espionage charges carrying a punishment of up to 20 years in jail. At least three countries have confirmed that they've requested consular access to Whelan: The U.S., Britain and Ireland say they're working to support him in detention and ensure his rights are respected.
Whelan holds passports from three other countries-Ireland, Canada, and the United Kingdom-extending the worldwide fallout from his arrest. "Then we will see", he said, according to the Interfax news agency. "Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be disclosed". Instead he's in Lefortovo, a notorious prison run by the KGB in Soviet times and still used for foreigners accused of spying.
Whelan's family says he was in Russian Federation to attend a friend's wedding.
Daniel Hoffman, a former CIA Moscow station chief, said it was "possible, even likely" that Mr Whelan's arrest had been ordered by the Russian leader Vladimir Putin to set up an exchange for Maria Butina.
Whelan is a former US Marine, who worked as a security director for BorgWarner, a major Michigan-based auto parts manufacturer.
The expanding passport list for Whelan, a 48-year-old former Marine arrested last week in Moscow, has boosted the complexities and diplomatic fallout for Moscow.
The Russian embassy in London on Friday hit back at UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt for calling Moscow a threat to the rules-based global order.
"Individuals should not be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage [or] being used in diplomatic chess games", Hunt said.
British national Paul Whelan 48 a former US Marine has been detained in Russia on spying charges
Whelan's arrest came two weeks after Russian gun-rights activist Maria Butina pleaded guilty in the United States to conspiring to act as a foreign agent by trying to infiltrate conservative circles and the National Rifle Association to influence USA politics.
Russia's Foreign Ministry confirmed Whelan's British citizenship to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency on Friday. "That's in downtown Moscow".
During his first two years in office, Trump has gone to great lengths to secure the release of Americans detained overseas and claims to have had 17 people released under his administration. The highest rank he attained was staff sergeant. He was also convicted of using a false social security number and profile for a military computer system to grade his own examinations, and of writing 10 bad checks totaling around $6,000. "I don't think it has any implications or impact on this situation".
A member of Russia's parliament suggested Friday that once the investigation into Whelan was completed, he could be swapped for Maria Butina, a Russian woman jailed in the US since July. Huntsman later called the Whelan family.
Whelan's brother David, who has denied knowledge of the court-martial, urged Congress and the State Department to help secure his brother's release.
"We are extremely anxious about Paul Whelan, we have offered consular assistance".
CNN said that 20 years that the accused spy may face in Russian Federation would provide "plenty of time to be swapped for..."
Details about Whelan's spying activities in Russian Federation and his arrest might be scarce at the moment, but it seems the mainstream media has already figured everything out.
Hunt said the USA was "leading the case" and the United Kingdom has offered consular assistance.