Moscow, December 31: The Russian authorities on Monday detained a US national in Moscow on espionage charge, the state-owned media reported. The accused, identified as Paul Whelan, has been confirmed as an American national staying on an extended visa in Russia.
A statement issued by the Russian interior ministry to the TASS news agency said Whelan was apprehended while "carrying out an act of espionage" in Moscow, adding that a case under relevant criminal sections has been registered against him. Russia's 'Invulnerable' Nuclear Missile Ready to Deploy, Says Vladimir Putin.
According to officials of the Federal Security Service of Russia, Whelan would be charged under article 276 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. If convicted under the law, he would be sentenced to a prison term ranging from 10 to 20 years.
No other details were immediately available. The US embassy in Moscow has offered a muted response on the issue. While the statement is awaited, diplomats have conveyed to the local media that the High Commission would be seeking consular access for Whelan.
The arrest came with Russia embroiled in a number of spy scandals with the West, from the alleged poisoning by Russian agents of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England to the US conviction of Russian Maria Butina for acting as an illegal foreign agent.