When U.S. citizen Paul Whelan was detained in Moscow last December over alleged espionage, many wondered as to the real reason for his arrest. Based on today’s comments from Russian officials, it now seems clear Whelan was arrested as a pawn for a possible prisoner swap for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko who was arrested in Liberia over drug charges by American special forces in 2010.
Yaroshenko is a pilot serving 20 years in the United States for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the country, reported The Moscow Times.
“Free Yaroshenko, swap him for an American or Americans who are serving their sentence here,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted today as saying by Interfax.
In January Ryabkov declared it was too early for a prisoner swap.
“The situation around the American Paul Whelan, who was arrested in Russia, is very serious,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted by Russian state-run news outlet RIA Novosti.
“As for the possibility of any ‘exchanges,’ it is impossible and wrong to raise a question on this now, when even the charges have not been formally brought.”
“Paul Whelan is receiving basic medical treatment in Lefortovo, but his state of health requires more than the detention facility can offer him. Our motion for an invited physician’s consultation was rejected; Paul Whelan’s health deteriorated,” the U.S. embassy in Moscow tweeted recently.
Whelan is a security director in BorgWarner, an automotive supplier based in Michigan. He is a citizen of four countries – the US, Canada, the Republic of Ireland and the UK, reported Russian state news agency TASS.
The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) detained him on December 28, 2018, and a criminal case was opened against him under Section 276 of the Russian Criminal Code (espionage), which stipulates from 10 to 20 years of imprisonment, added TASS.
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