American held in Russian Federation for spying is also British, Irish, Canadian

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova

His case grew more perplexing after Ireland became the fourth nation to acknowledge him as a citizen and.

Britain cautioned Russian Federation on Friday that individuals should not be used as diplomatic pawns after a former US marine who also holds a British passport was detained in Moscow on espionage charges.

Mr Zherebenkov said Mr Whelan, who faces a jail term of up to 20 years if convicted, remained in good spirits when he spoke to him on Wednesday this week. Canada's CBC News says that while it has not gotten direct confirmation of his citizenship, it received a statement from the government's Global Affairs Canada saying, "Consular officials are aware that a Canadian citizen has been arrested in Russian Federation".

Whelan's arrest came two weeks after Russian gun-rights activist Maria Butina pleaded guilty in the United States to conspiring to act as a foreign agent by trying to infiltrate conservative circles and the National Rifle Association to influence USA politics.

His twin, David Whelan, said his brother's "innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected".

Hints of the case against Whelan emerged Thursday when the Russian Rosbalt news agency described Whelan's arrest in his hotel. His family also denies all the accusations against him. The special court-martial, however, found him not guilty of that charge. He appealed the ruling but the service upheld the conviction.

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His military record shows he was discharged for bad conduct due to allegedly kiting checks.

David Whelan said he doubted his brother was a spy. He expressed gratitude to the US ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, for his assistance.

The Marine Corps is providing details on the court-martial of an American man who has been detained by Russian Federation on spying charges.

Earlier this week, the US State Department was granted consular access to Whelan. Media reports said that Whelan also carried passports from Canada and Ireland. Whelan obtained the two European passports through family lineage.

"We are relieved and very pleased to know that staff of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow have been given consular access to Paul and confirmed that he is safe", his brother, David Whelan, said in an emailed statement on Friday.

Relations between Moscow and London have hit a low point in the wake of Britain's allegations that Russian military intelligence agents were behind the nerve-agent poisoning of a Russian former double agent and his daughter in the British city of Salisbury in March. Russian Federation has vehemently denied any involvement. Russia's top officials have many times criticized Butina's arrest, calling it politically motivated, but insisted that the woman never had any ties with the Kremlin.

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Butina is a Russian gun activist, who was arrested in the U.S. in July and eventually pleaded guilty to working as a foreign agent without proper registration.

In December, Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring with a senior Russian official to infiltrate USA conservative groups.

Unlike in the U.S., Russia's holiday season runs into next week.

Shortly before Butina pleaded guilty, Russian President Vladimir Putin said she was not known to any of his spy agencies.

The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release.

"Individuals should not be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage", British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said.

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The Novi man arrested in Russian Federation and charged with espionage might have some extra help in his bid to get out of jail.

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