Public relations center of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which is the successor to the KGB, said on Monday that FSB has detained US citizen in Moscow ‘on suspicion of espionage’.
An American citizen Paul Whelan was apprehended during a “spying action” in Moscow, the Federal Security Service said. He is currently being detained on suspicion of espionage.
“On December 28, 2018 staff members of the Russian Federal Security Service detained US citizen Paul Whelan in Moscow while on a spy mission,” FSB’s press office said.
No details or facts surrounding the operation were immediately disclosed.
Criminal proceedings were launched against the US citizen under Article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code, which covers the crime of espionage.
If found guilty, he faces between 10 and 20 years in jail.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the US Embassy in Moscow was notified of Whelan’s detention.
News of the American citizen’s arrest comes at a time of heightened tensions between the US and Russia which has been accused of meddling in US domestic affairs and of various spy activities.
In October, US charged seven Russia’s GRU military intelligence officers with hacking and committing wire fraud.
Four men belonging to that group were expelled from the Netherlands in April for allegedly attempting to hack the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Moscow denied all allegations, dismissing them as “spy mania.”