US citizen accused of spying in Russia files appeal
US citizen Paul Whelan, who was arrested in Russia on suspicion of espionage, has filed an appeal against a Moscow court’s decision to detain him without bail.
Moscow’s Lefortovo court received the appeal from Whelan’s lawyer on Thursday, the court’s press service told state news agency TASS on Thursday.
“The lawyer’s appeal against the ruling to place Whelan in custody has been lodged with the court. The date of consideration has not been fixed,” said Yekaterina Krasnova, a spokeswoman for the court.
Whelan’s lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said on January 3 that he filed a complaint with the Lefortovo court because the detention without bail is “excessive and unwarranted.”
Whelan, who is also a citizen of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada, was arrested December 28 by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). If convicted he faces up to 20 years in a Russian jail.
The 48-year-old’s family rejects Russia’s accusation, asserting Whelan was only in the country for a vacation.
Whelan’s twin brother David wrote in an op-ed in Friday’s Washington Post that his brother is not a spy. “He is many things to many people, but he is not a spy,” he wrote.
A diplomatic source familiar with the case told CNN on January 4 that Whelan, a discharged US Marines reservist, appeared to have no connection to any national intelligence operation. The source added that Whelan entered Russia on his US passport and that it remained unclear what exactly he might have been trying to do on his own in Russia.
Whelan is no stranger to the country. When he was in the military in 2006, he used his two weeks’ leave to visit Russia.
A 2007 online Marine Corps article says he spent the leave “experiencing the post-Soviet era of Moscow and St. Petersburg.” A photo shows him standing across the Moscow River from the Kremlin.
His brother posted on Twitter that Whelan has “traveled extensively over the last 30 years,” accompanied by a picture of the many postcards he sent to his sister.
Discharged from US military service
Whelan’s family says the reservist, who served two tours in Iraq in 2004 and 2006, was in Russia to attend the wedding of a fellow former US service member and a Russian woman.
Whelan’s military service ended after he was convicted by a special court-martial on a charge of attempted larceny, military court documents show. A record of the conviction says that, while in Iraq, Whelan tried to steal $10,410 in US currency.
Whelan, a Michigan resident, has had a career in corporate security, his brother said, including at automotive components supplier BorgWarner since 2017.
Whelan’s job entails making sure BorgWarner facilities are physically secure, his brother said. The company confirmed his employment but noted that BorgWarner has no facilities in Russia.