Russian authorities say that they have detained a U.S. citizen for alleged spying in Moscow.
The Kremlin’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Dec. 31 that an American was detained Dec. 28 and a criminal case had been opened into the alleged espionage, without being more specific. Russia’s TASS news agency identified the man as Paul Whelan, but Reuters was unable to independently confirm the exact spelling. If found guilty, he could face 10 to 20 years in prison.
“On Dec. 28, 2018, staff members of the Russian Federal Security Service detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan in Moscow while on a spy mission,” the FSB said.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow, which reportedly was informed by Russia’s foreign ministry of the incident, didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment on the arrest.
The FSB’s recent arrest also comes weeks after Russian national Maria Butina pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy in U.S. federal court, for acting as an agent for the Kremlin without registering in the United States.
Meanwhile, in a New Year’s letter on Dec. 30, Putin told Trump that Moscow was ready for dialogue on a “wide-ranging agenda.”
“Vladimir Putin stressed that the [Russia-United States] relations are the most important factor for providing strategic stability and international security,” a Kremlin statement said.
Trump canceled the meeting at the G-20 summit due to increasing tensions between Russia and Ukraine, citing an incident in the Black Sea that resulted in Russia’s ongoing detention of some Ukrainian ships and their crews.
Relations between Russian and the United States have been strained since Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. As a result, Washington and Western allies have imposed a number of sanctions on Russian officials, companies, and banks.