Four Embassies Work To Help Paul Whelan, Accused Of Spying In Russia

US officials in Moscow revealed that Paul Whelan an ex-marine accused of espionage is also a British national

Britain cautioned Russian Federation on Friday that individual citizens should be not used as pawns in a diplomatic chess game after Paul Whelan, a dual USA -U.K. national who was born in Canada, was detained in Moscow on espionage charges.

Whelan's lawyer said on Thursday that he was detained in Moscow last week and charged with espionage.

Today it emerged that Mr Whelan also holds Canadian and Irish citizenship through birth and ancestry and that those governments are also involved in his case.

The worldwide links to an American charged with espionage in Russian Federation widened Friday as Ireland became the fourth nation to acknowledge Paul Whelan as a citizen and seek consular access.

On Friday, the United Kingdom said it was also trying to gain access to Whelan for a consular visit.

Hunt adds that "we are extremely anxious about him and his family".

Whelan, who is officially employed as director of global security for a Michigan-based automotive parts supplier, was detained in Moscow on December 28, with Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) filing a criminal case against him over allegations of espionage. In Russia, a spying conviction carries a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years.

Washington has pushed for an explanation to Mr Whelan's detention.

"We are giving every support we can, but we don't agree with individuals being used in diplomatic chess games". Whelan was visited by Jon Huntsman Jr., the US ambassador to Russian Federation, inside his cell. It said it made the request "after receiving a request for assistance" from an Irish citizen detained in Moscow. "We would never put a USA citizen, without diplomatic immunity, in harm's way this way, especially looking after low-level things like this".

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Earlier this week, NPR asked John Sipher, a former member of the CIA's Clandestine Service who worked in Moscow, whether Whelan fits the profile of an American spy working inside Russian Federation - to which Sipher replied, "Absolutely not". His family have said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

David Whelan issued a family statement on Friday on behalf of his brother, Paul Whelan, saying that the family was "very pleased to know that staff of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow have been given consular access to Paul and confirmed that he is safe".

The arrest quickly drew speculation that Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, might seek to use Whelan as a bargaining chip to force the U.S.to release Maria Butina, the Russian operative who recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy to act as a foreign agent on American soil without registering.

"We are all extremely anxious about him and his family", Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC in an interview.

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 US politics.

Russian Federation has angrily denied involvement in the poisonings.

The Marines gave Whelan, who served two tours in Iraq, a bad conduct discharge in 2008 over accusations of theft.

Image: There are suspicions the arrest may be used to set up an exchange for Maria Butina. The highest rank he attained was staff sergeant.

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