US citizen Paul Whelan formally charged in Russia with espionage, lawyer says

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(CNN) — American citizen Paul Whelan has been formally charged in Russia with espionage, his lawyer said Thursday, almost a week after he was detained in Moscow while on what his family says was only a vacation trip.

Whelan, 48, a Michigan resident and director of global security for a US-based automotive components supplier, was arrested December 28 in Moscow on suspicion of carrying out an espionage act, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said earlier this week.

His lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, declined to speak about details of the charges in a conversation with CNN on Thursday.

The Russian government announced the arrest three days ago; no further details about the circumstances of the detention or the specific allegations against him have been released.

Whelan’s family rejects notions that he was a spy, asserting that the discharged Marine reservist was in Russia to attend a wedding for a fellow former US service member and a Russian woman.

US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman visited Whelan in Russia’s Lefortovo Detention Facility on Wednesday and spoke with his family by telephone after the visit, a US State Department spokesman said.

CNN’s Matthew Chance, Zahra Ullah, Darya Tarasova and Emanuella Grinberg contributed to this report.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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