MOSCOW, October 17. /TASS/. During its working contacts with Moscow Washington did not call in question the fact that US citizen Paul Whelan was involved in espionage activity, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Thursday.
"Whelan’s espionage activity has been well-documented. In particular, this has never been challenged by American officials during our working contacts," Zakharova said.
US officials continue making public statements, voicing concerns over Whelan’s fate and complaining that the steps against him are illegal, she noted.
"However, staff members of the US Embassy in Moscow and diplomats from three Western countries [the United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland] regularly get access to him and are well aware that a statement, which Whelan made as the court extended his custody, complaining about alleged torture and even threat to his life is just provocation by his attorneys," she added.
The diplomat recalled that the investigation in Whelan’s case had been completed and the charges were brought on August 30. "He has been familiarizing himself with the case files since September 4. There is such an impression that he is in no hurry, although the date of the trial now depends on him only," Zakharova stressed.
According to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), 49-year-old Paul Whelan, a corporate security director for automotive parts supplier BorgWarner, was detained in Moscow on December 28, 2018, while on a spy mission. He faces charges under Article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code (espionage), which carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison.
Apart from US citizenship, Whelan also holds British, Canadian and Irish passports.