Many Kremlin watchers believed Paul Whelan was arrested, charged and imprisoned in Moscow for espionage due to the Mueller investigation’s arrest of Maria Butina in the US over foreign agent violations. However, it seems the Kremlin has other Russians jailed in American prisons in mind as talks heat up for a possible prisoner swap for imprisoned ex-Marine Paul Whelan.
Whelan was arrested in Moscow after receiving a thumb drive which contained classified information; he declared at the time he thought drive contained wedding photos from his Russian friends.
On June 15, the Moscow City Court sentenced US national Paul Whelan to 16 years behind bars for spying against Russia. Whelan was found guilty under article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code (Espionage). His attorney Vladimir Zherebenkov said earlier that the US citizen would not be opposed to a pardon. He also disclosed that after the verdict enters into force, Whelan’s exchange for Russian nationals Konstantin Yaroshenko or Viktor Bout currently jailed in the US may be discussed, reported Russian state news agency TASS.
Vedomosti asked a source close to Russian intelligence whether such an exchange is possible in the near future. The source admitted that such a prisoner swap may be in the works, however, this is a sensitive issue, and the parties may take a long time to reach an agreement.
Russia and the US may be discussing a swap for Bout and Yaroshenko, as the issue of their early release or extradition has been raised many times by the Russian Foreign Ministry, the source added, stressing however that it is still too early to say whether the matter has been settled.
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