Paul Whelan, U.S. citizen, arrested in Russia on spying charges

Whelan could be punished with 10 to 20 years in jail, according to Russian news agency TASS. The statement implied that he had been caught red-handed, saying that the arrest had occurred "during an act of espionage".

The Federal Security Service, or FSB, the top KGB successor agency, said that Paul Whelan was detained in Moscow on Friday.

US authorities nabbed their own Russian citizen, Maria Butina, who pleaded guilty to espionage earlier this month.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow had no information on the arrest and referred questions to the State Department in Washington. A spokesperson told Reuters, "We have requested this access and expect Russian authorities to provide it".

Further details about the case could not be provided because of privacy concerns, the press officer said.

A Russian national, Maria Butina, was also convicted in the United States for acting as an illegal foreign agent.

The arrest comes as relations between the two countries have declined with concerns such as the Ukrainian crisis, the ongoing war in Syria, and the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 us presidential election all still being topics of controversy.

Butina faces up to six months in prison, followed by likely deportation.

Shortly before her guilty plea, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Butina was not known to any of his spy agencies. "There were simply no grounds for it".

Relations between the United States and Russia remain strained over a raft of issues including Russia's role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, its alleged meddling in elections in the United States and elsewhere, and the poisoning of a Russian double agent in Britain.


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