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Swapping Whelan for Russians in US custody out of the question, says Russian diplomat

January 11, 13:02 UTC+3

Paul Whelan was detained in Russia on suspicion of espionage

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© EPA-EFE/MAXIM SHIPENKOV

MOSCOW, January 11. /TASS/. Exchanging Paul Whelan who was detained in Russia on suspicion of espionage for Russian citizens jailed in the United States is out of the question right now, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters at a press briefing on Friday. 

"I would like to emphasize that exchanging Paul Whelan for someone held in custody abroad is out of the question at the current stage," she said. "There are numerous reports on that score, there are outright speculations and fake news, but I have now voiced the official Russian stance."

The diplomat recalled that Whelan had been detained in Moscow on December 29, 2018, while on a spy mission and was currently at the Lefortovo pre-trial detention center.

"Paul Whelan entered Russia with a US passport. Due to that, US representative were granted consular access as early as January 2," the diplomat noted. "During the investigative activities, it turned out that the arrested individual has the citizenship of three more countries, that is, the UK, Ireland and Canada. The embassies of the aforementioned countries were immediately notified of that."

According to Zakharova, representatives of those countries got in touch with the Russian Foreign Ministry regarding the possibility of visiting Whelan. "They will get such an opportunity by mutual agreement and at mutually convenient time," she concluded.

The embassies of the UK, Ireland and Canada will receive consular access to Paul Whelan detained in Moscow on espionage charges, she added. 

She noted that employees of the US Embassy in Moscow had been promptly granted access to Whelan. "During the investigative activities, it turned out that the arrested individual holds citizenship of three other countries, that is, the UK, Ireland, and Canada," she pointed out. "The embassies of the aforementioned countries were immediately notified of that."

"For their part, they asked for a visit. They will get such an opportunity by mutual agreement and at mutually convenient time," Zakharova said.

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