Mike Pompeo


Russia says US consular officials visited detained US citizen Paul Whelan

January 02, 2019 - 10:45 am

By Jason Hanna

(CNN) -- Russia says it granted consular access Wednesday to an American citizen it accuses of spying, five days after the corporate security director was arrested in a mysterious case in which no one has publicly said what exactly he's accused of doing.

US consular officials were allowed to see Paul Whelan, 48, of Michigan, on Wednesday afternoon, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told CNN.

Whelan was arrested Friday in Moscow on suspicion of carrying out an act of espionage, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) has said. No further details about the circumstances of his arrest or allegations have been released.

RELATED: Russia detains US citizen on suspicion of spying

His family rejects notions that he was a spy, asserting that the well-traveled, discharged Marine was in Russia to attend a wedding for a fellow former US service member and a Russian woman.

Earlier Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his government has made clear to Russia that the US expects to learn more about the charges.

"And if the detention is not appropriate, we will demand his immediate return," Pompeo said while on an unrelated official trip to Brazil.

When US consular officials visit Americans detained abroad, they typically provide a list of local English-speaking attorneys who can help, check whether the detainee is receiving appropriate medical care, and tell the detainee of other local or US-based resources that may help them.

Whelan's arrest came 15 days after alleged Russian spy Maria Butina pleaded guilty in US federal court to trying to infiltrate political circles and influence US relations with Russia.

This is a developing story.

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