Russian investigative agencies on Thursday formally charged Paul Whelan, a former Marine, with spying, according to Interfax, a Russian news agency.
“An indictment has been presented. Whelan dismisses it,” a source familiar with the case told Interfax.
Whelan, 48, was arrested on Dec. 28 during a visit to Russia. The Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, announced the charges on Dec. 31.
Rosbalt, a Russian news agency considered close to Russia’s security services, alleged on Thursday that Whelan was arrested after soliciting classified information on Russian security officials.
Citing anonymous sources, Rosbalt reported that Whelan received a memory stick containing the information during a meeting with a Russian national at a hotel in Moscow.
Whelan’s twin brother, David, has disputed the espionage allegations. He said that Paul frequently visited Russia and was there for a wedding.
Numerous Russia experts have suggested that Whelan is being held in retaliation for the indictment against Maria Butina, a 30-year-old Russian national who pleaded guilty on Dec. 13 to acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Russia.
Butina acknowledged in her plea agreement that she worked at the direction of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank, to infiltrate conservative political groups in the U.S.
Butina also coordinated with an American citizen believed to be her boyfriend, a GOP operative named Paul Erickson.
Whelan’s attorney, Vladimir Zherebenkov, asked a judge in Moscow to grant Whelan bail. He will remain in custody until at least Feb. 28.
The New York Times reported that Whelan was court-martialed in 2008 on larceny charges and discharged for bad conduct.
He has worked since then as international head of security for BorgWarner, a Michigan-based auto parts supplier.
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