Russia has indicted American citizen Paul Whelan on charges of espionage, according to the Interfax news agency.
“An indictment has been presented. Whelan dismisses it,” a source told Interfax.
Russia detained Whelan on Dec. 28 as he was traveling to Moscow for a fellow Marine's wedding, according to his family. Some CIA veterans believe his arrest is payback for the arrest of Maria Butina, an alleged Russian spy who pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to infiltrate Republican politics before and after the 2016 presidential election, according to CNN.
“We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being,” Whelan's family told The Los Angeles Times in a statement provided to the media by his twin brother, David. “His innocence is undoubted, and we trust that his rights will be respected.”
A State Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Whelan served as a Marine reservist from 1994 until 2008, when he was busted down from staff sergeant to private and given a bad conduct discharge after being convicted at a special court-martial of several charges related to larceny, according to his official record.
His two Military Occupational Specialties while in the Marine Corps were 0151, administrative clerk; and 0149, administrative chief, his record says.Whelan deployed to Iraq from February to August 2004 and again from February to December 2006.
His awards include three Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medals; six Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals; Army Achievement Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal (x4); Armed Forces Reserve Medal; four Sea Service Deployment Ribbons; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Iraq Campaign Medal; two Navy Meritorious Unit Commendations; and three Navy Unit Commendations.
UPDATE: This story was updated at 11:16 a.m. on Jan. 3 to include Whelan's official military record.