UK citizen Paul Whelan who is being held in Russia over accusations that he was spying for the US is “desperately worrying” says Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Whelan, who is an ex-US marine was arrested on 28th December whilst in Moscow where Russia claim he was “caught spying”. His family insist he was attending a wedding in the country.
Hunt said that he was “extremely worred” about Whelan, and said that “every support” is being provided to him. Hunt also said that Russia cannot use UK citizens as “pawns in diplomatic chess”.
“Individuals should not be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage. We need to see what these charges are against him and understand whether there is a case or not.
“We are giving every support we can, but we don’t agree with individuals being used in diplomatic chess games.
“Because it is desperately worrying, not just for the individual but their families, and we are all extremely worried about him and his family as we hear this news.”Jeremy Hunt
Whelan was born in Canada to British parents and moved to the US as a child. He now lives in Michigan and is director of global security for automotive components supplier BorgWarner. It is understood that he also holds an Irish passport.
He has been visiting Russia for business and pleasure for more than a decade, his brother said. His twin, David, said he had been told his brother was fine and looking healthy, after US ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman visited him this week.
Hunt has said that the UK has not yet had access to Whelan, and that the US were leading the case for his safe return. The Irish embassy in Moscow has also requested access to an “Irish citizen” detained in the city.
Whelan travelled to Russia on 22nd December from the US and had planned to return on 6th January.
If Russia charge him with espionage, he could face up to 20 years in prison should he be found guilty.