US ambassador meets with Michigan man held for spying in Russia
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman met in Moscow on Wednesday with a Michigan man who has been detained on espionage charges as the American government seeks answers about his arrest.
Huntsman said he offered support and assistance to Paul Whelan, a corporate security executive and former Marine, and later spoke to the man’s family by phone, but he would not discuss the case in detail.
The ambassador said the U.S. complained to the Russian government about the length of time it took them to grant consular access to Whelan, who was arrested Friday.
Russian Federal Security Service said Whelan was caught “during an espionage operation,” but gave no specific information about why he was detained.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier Wednesday, while in Brazil, that the U.S. hoped to gain access soon to the former Marine and that “if the detention is not appropriate, we will demand his immediate return.”
Whelan, 48, was in Moscow to attend a wedding when he disappeared, his brother, David Whelan, said Tuesday. He arrived Dec. 22 and was scheduled to stay through Sunday.
Pompeo said the Trump administration has “made clear to the Russians our expectation that we will learn more about the charges and come to understand what it is he’s been accused of.”
Michigan Rep.-elect Haley Stevens, who will represent Whelan’s district in Congress, released a statement Wednesday saying: “Paul served our country as a Marine and law enforcement officer and we must ensure that Russia continues to meet its obligations under the Vienna Convention to provide U.S. officials access to Mr. Whelan. I am working with the State Department and will remain vigilant until Paul returns safely to his family in Michigan.”