Canadian citizen imprisoned in Russia
In the course of her press briefing on January 11, 2019, Maria Zakharova, Spokeswoman of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed that the Canadian Embassy in the country would be granted access to a detained former US Marine, Paul Whelan, who held Canadian citizenship by birth.
Paul Whelan, who had entered Russia as a US citizen under an invitation to his friend’s wedding, was arrested in Moscow, having been caught receiving a memory stick with a classified list of Russian secret agents on December 28, 2018. According to the updated information provided by Maria Zakharova, he is accused of espionage under Article 276 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and is facing a court trial. As reported by CBS News on January 4, 2019, the US Intelligence and State Department sources didn’t confirm the detainee as being a spy but saw him being caught up in a spy game, i.e. a possible swap for Maria Butina charged with espionage and imprisoned in the United States. On the same day, Washington Post published a disclosure of Whelan’s bad-conduct discharge from the US Marine Corps for an attempt to steal more than $10,000 while serving in Iraq in 2006. Also, it became known that he holds British, Irish and Canadian citizenship. The detainee’s family, in the face of his twin brother from Canada who goes public to advocate for Paul’s innocence, learned about those facts from mass media.
As stated by the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Spokeswoman, US diplomats were allowed to visit this citizen under the bilateral Consular Convention signed in 1964 and did so on January 2. Despite that the United States is leading the case, Canada, Ireland and the UK will be able to access him too. “They will be granted this permission by mutual consent at a mutually convenient time,” says Maria Zakharova.