US citizen faces up to 20 years in Russian jail, accused of espionage

US citizen faces up to 20 years in Russian jail after being accused of ‘biological’ espionage

  • An American citizen faces ten to 20 years in Russian prison on spying charges
  • Citizen is suspected of collecting intelligence on biological topics against Russia
  • This follows claims by Putin that US Marine Paul Whelan was arrested for spying

Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, has reportedly started an espionage case against a U.S. citizen.

The FSB said on Thursday an American, who the agency did not name, is ‘suspected of collecting intelligence information on biological topics directed against the security of the Russian Federation’.

The charge carries a potential prison term of ten to 20 years. 

The agency opened the criminal case against the suspect on grounds of a crime under Article 276 of its Criminal Code, but did not elaborate on the allegations. 

Vladimir Putin said US Marine Paul Whelan was arrested on charges of espionage in 2018

‘We are aware of these unconfirmed reports of an investigation regarding a U.S. citizen in Russia,’ State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said.

‘Generally, the Russian Federation does not abide by its obligations to provide timely notification of the detention of U.S. citizens in Russia,’ Patel said. 

‘Russian authorities also don’t regularly inform the embassy of the trials, sentencing or movement of U.S. citizens. We’re looking into this matter and will continue to monitor it.’

This follows Kremlin claims made last December that former US marine Paul Whelan was imprisoned in Russia in 2018 on charges of espionage. 

Paul Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive, was arrested in December 2018 on espionage charges after a friend working in the FSB handed him a flash drive apparently containing ‘state secrets’ that Whelan reportedly thought contained holiday photos.

The U.S. marine was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison on 15 June 2020. 

The United States government and his family have said the charges against Mr Whelan are baseless.

Upon his arrest, Mr Whelan told reporters: ‘We have proven my innocence. We have proven fabrication. This is slimy, greasy corrupt Russian politics, nothing more, nothing less,’ and dismissed the trial as a pre-planned ‘sham’ by Russian security services.

Russia has so far refused to swap Mr Whelan in a prisoner exchange. 

The marine made headlines again in December 2022 after speaking out from prison on the prisoner swap organised by the Biden Administration to release and return American basketball star Brittney Griner from Russia in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, moniker ‘the Merchant of Death’.

Former President Donald Trump said on 12 January that he turned down a deal that would have released Paul Whelan in exchange for the release of Viktor Bout. 

Paul Whelan confirmed in December that he had returned to a Russian penal colony after being moved to a prison hospital.

Besides his career as a marine, Whelan was a police officer in the town of Chelsea, Michigan

The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) is the main successor to the KGB, the ‘Committee for State Security’, of the Soviet Union, which itself succeeds notorious agencies including the Cheka, the GPU, the OGPU, the NKGB, the NKVD and the MGB.

Forced labour camps have been used by the Russian penal system since the 17th century and emerged in the modern form after the revolution of 1917.

OGPU Russian state security took control of the penal system and camps from 1929, growing significantly during the Great Terror and mass arrests of the late 1930s. 

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