American Arrested in Russia 'Has a Superior Set of Skills'

But Paul Whelan's brother says he's definitely not a spy
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 1, 2019 3:12 PM CST
American Arrested in Russia Planned to Attend a Wedding
Paul Whelan.   (family handout)

(Newser) – The American who Russia claims is a spy was simply in the country to attend a wedding, according to his family. News of Paul Whelan's arrest in Moscow came on Monday. At the time, Russia's FSB said only that an American man had been detained Friday "during an espionage operation." In a statement released Tuesday, Whelan's family said Whelan had no known contact with anyone since 5pm local time Friday; the wedding was scheduled for Saturday. "We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being," they said. "His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected." The latest:

  • The Guardian received an email from Whelan's twin brother David, who says Whelan is a former Marine who planned to be at another former Marine's wedding to a Russian woman.

  • It wasn't his first visit to the country. His family says Whelan's "numerous" trips date to 2007, but that his Russian language skills were limited. They say he had traveled there for work and to meet friends he had made via social media. On Friday morning, the AP reports he took some wedding guests to visit the Kremlin museums.
  • As for his current employment, Michigan-based BorgWarner, an automotive parts supplier, says Whelan is the company's global security director and is tasked with handling security at its Michigan and international facilities. It does not have facilities in Russia, but Whelan's previous employer, Kelly Services, does, says his brother.
  • The US State Department said only that it was aware of the detention of an American citizen and has petitioned for consular access, which "Russia's obligations under the Vienna Convention require them to provide," a State Department rep told the BBC.
  • "I think Paul has a superior set of skills to most of us," David Whelan told MSNBC. "And so hopefully he won't have to [deploy] too many those skills in order to survive and to come home." He also called it an "implausible situation. ... It just never would have occurred to me that A) he would have any sort of trouble in a large metropolitan area or B) that his background would suggest that he would willing to commit any crime, let alone an espionage crime."
(Read more Russia stories.)

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