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US Embassy says consular visit to Whelan postponed at FSB’s request

US national Paul was detained in Russia on suspicion of espionage

MOSCOW, January 22. /TASS/. The visit of the US Embassy consular officers to US national Paul Whelan, suspected of espionage in Russia, was postponed last week at the request of the Federal Security Service, the US diplomatic mission said on Tuesday.

"U.S. Embassy consular officers had planned to visit Mr. Paul Whelan on January 17 at Lefortovo Prison. The visit had been approved by the Russian government and scheduled in advance by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). On the morning of January 17 - the same day as the scheduled visit - the Russian MFA informed us that the visit would be postponed and rescheduled at the request of the Federal Security Service (FSB)," the Embassy’s Spokeswoman Andrea Kalan said.

"The U.S. Department of State takes seriously our obligation to visit detained U.S. citizens regularly and ensure that they receive humane treatment and access to medical care. We are strongly concerned about the delay in consular access both to Mr. Whelan and, more broadly, to U.S. citizens in Russia and about Russia’s lack of adherence to the Bilateral Consular Agreement between our two countries. We have expressed our concern through diplomatic channels, and we call on Russia to meet its treaty obligations. We continue to urge Russia to follow international law and provide for swift, fair, and transparent judicial processes for detained U.S. citizens," she said.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said Paul Whelan was detained in Moscow "while he was on a spy mission." The FSB Investigative Department opened a criminal case under Article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code (espionage), which carries a punishment of 10 to 20 years in prison. Whelan holds citizenship of the US, UK, Ireland and Canada. In early January, US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman visited Whelan at the Lefortovo pre-trial detention center.

Whelan, 48, is corporate security director for US automotive parts supplier BorgWarner. According to the Washington Post, he enlisted in the US Marines in 1994 and "rose through the ranks to become a staff sergeant, serving two tours in Iraq, in 2004 and 2006." However, Whelan "was discharged for bad conduct in 2008 after being convicted of several charges related to larceny.".