Russia has charged British citizen Paul Whelan with espionage following his arrest in Moscow.
International ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed at a briefing within the capital that the 48-year-old would face trial, and dismissed options he may very well be utilized in a prisoner swap for a Russian held within the US.
Mr Whelan – a former US marine born in Canada to British mother and father, and who now lives in Michigan – was taken into custody on the finish of final month and will face 20 years in jail if convicted of spying.
His household mentioned he was attending the marriage of fellow ex-serviceman, together with his twin David Whelan, insisting that his innocence is “undoubted”.
Talking throughout a go to to Singapore final week, British International Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned the Kremlin to not use UK residents in “diplomatic chess video games”, with relations between the 2 international locations having soured considerably for the reason that poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury final March.
The identical nerve agent used within the assault subsequently claimed the lifetime of 44-year-old Daybreak Sturgess.
Mr Hunt advised Sky Information that “people shouldn’t be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage”.
“We’re giving him (Mr Whelan) each help that we will, however we do not agree with people being utilized in diplomatic chess video games,” he added.
“As a result of it’s desperately worrying, not only for the person however their households, and we’re extraordinarily apprehensive about him and his household as we hear this information.”
Hypothesis that Russia could also be holding Mr Whelan within the hope of securing a prisoner swap got here after a former CIA chief based mostly in Moscow mentioned the Kremlin was eager to see the discharge of weapons rights activist Maria Butina.
Daniel Hoffman instructed that Vladimir Putin had ordered the arrest of Mr Whelan to arrange a commerce for Butina, who final month pleaded responsible to performing as a Kremlin agent to infiltrate the Nationwide Rifle Affiliation.
Moscow claims the 30-year-old was pressured to make a false confession about being a Russian spy, after she admitted making an attempt to gather intelligence on conservative political teams as Donald Trump rose to energy.