Russia claims American Paul Whelan was caught spying ‘red-handed’

Paul Whelan, an American man accused of spying in Russia, was caught “red-handed” in his hotel, according to the country's foreign minister.

Whelan, 48, of Novi, Michigan, a former U.S. Marine, was arrested in Moscow last month on suspicion of espionage. He was born in Canada to British parents before the family moved to the U.S. He holds British, Canadian and Irish passports, and Russia said it will allow consular visits.

“He [Whelan] was caught red-handed,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday, according to Reuters.

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“He was detained at the moment he was carrying out specific illegal actions in his hotel,” he continued.

Lavrov said Whelan’s brother has visited Moscow and has been briefed about the prison conditions. But Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that David Whelan was not at their capital, according to state news agency Interfax. The U.S. Embassy did not immediately comment.

Lavrov said the investigation into Whelan will continue and dismissed reports that the country arrested him so he could be swapped for one of the Russians held in the U.S. like Maria Butina, who pleaded guilty to acting as a foreign agent in the U.S.

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Whelan, the head of global security for a Michigan-based auto parts supplier and a former U.S. Marine, was in Moscow to attend the wedding of a Marine Corps friend when he disappeared, his twin brother, David, said. He said his brother had been to Russia several times before. David Whelan said he doubted that his brother was a spy.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.