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Russian Foreign Ministry blasts suspected US spy's ‘drilling’ threat towards jail guards

The Russian foreign minister told reporters that espionage suspect Paul Whelan was behaving insolently and making threats to the employees of Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service

WASHINGTON, December 11. /TASS/. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has shed light on how US citizen Paul Whelan, who is in Russian custody on espionage charges, made threats against the staff of Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service (FPS).

"Whelan’s lawyers obviously are not helping him. They know nothing about their client. We've told the attorneys where Whelan could "take his drill." There was a device similar to it on the investigator’s table, which is used for making holes in documents," the ministry said in its Telegram channel, posting a photo of the drill machine used to punch holes into stacks of documents, in order to subsequently bind them together.

"Whelan intended to use it for another purpose. So, we suggest that everyone who is defending Whelan should learn more about their client and perhaps advise him on how to act," the ministry said. "By the way, what do you think they would do if an inmate threatened to drill [a hole into] an investigator’s head in a US prison?"

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters at a news conference after talks with his US counterpart Mike Pompeo that espionage suspect Paul Whelan was behaving insolently and making threats to the employees of Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service. "Paul Whelan has been acting defiantly. He has been making threats to FPS employees, saying he would bore into their heads with a drill, and expressing other arrogant statements," he stated.

The Moscow Public Supervisory Commission said on its Twitter account that the employees of Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service were not violating Whelan’s rights and he received medical assistance on time. "The commission’s members have visited Whelan in prison many times and confirm Lavrov’s statements. Despite Whelan’s bad mood and attempts to violate the code of conduct, his legal rights, including medical assistance, have not been violated," the commission said.

In his turn, Vladimir Zherebenkov, the lawyer for the incarcerated US citizen, told TASS that there was misunderstanding between his client and the prison guards due to the language barrier. Moreover, Whelan was behaving appropriately and was not making any threats. He also doubts that his client could obtain a drill while in custody.

US citizen Paul Whelan, 48, who also holds British, Canadian and Irish citizenship, is a global security chief at BorgWarner, a Michigan-based automotive components company. The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said Whelan was detained on December 28, 2018 in Moscow while on an alleged spy mission. A criminal investigation was launched against him on espionage charges carrying a punishment of anywhere from 10 to 20 years behind bars.