Stripes reported that US Marine veteran Paul Whelan, 48, was visiting Russia to attend a wedding of a Marine buddy at an upscale hotel in Moscow. When he didn’t contact his family on the 28th, they knew something was wrong. He was detained last week by Russian domestic security for what they described as a “spy mission.”
Espionage charges in Russia can end with 10 to 20 years in prison. Whelan’s family is concerned for his well-being.
“We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being. His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected.” Family statement
Whelan works as the Director of Global Security for BorgWarner, an American automotive parts company that has contracts in Russia. BorgWarner has foreign contracts in 18 countries, and around 29,000 employees.
Paul Whelan was a police officer and deputy in Michigan for two years prior to his military service. He was an active duty Marine reservist beginning in 1990.
He has visited Russia several times since 2007. He was still a US Marine in 2007, and visited the country during a break from his Marine duties as a Staff Sgt. The Marine Corps wrote then:
“It gives the service members some downtime and allows them to go home and see their families,” said Whelan, a native of Manchester, Mich. “A lot of the junior Marines have never been away from home for more than a year in a foreign country. It helps to kind of fall back and regroup a little bit for those who are married or have families. It helps the families, too. Then, it gives those of us who are single an opportunity to travel throughout the world wherever we want to go and experience the diversity of culture.”
Whelan chose the Russian culture as something he enjoyed. He is from Michigan, although reportedly born in Canada, according to USA Today. As he visited Russia, he befriended several Russian soldiers. His family does not believe he would have violated the law in Russia.
The State Department is aware of the arrest and has petitioned the Russian Government for access to Mr. Whelan.
“Russia’s obligations under the Vienna Convention require them to provide consular access. We have requested this access and expect Russian authorities to provide it.” US State Department statement
My brother was detained by the Russian government on Friday as an alleged spy. While the law library + info focus will remain, you may see an increase in off-message topics until we get him safely home. pic.twitter.com/2HIF1UmS1b
— David Whelan (@davidpwhelan) January 1, 2019
Featured photo: US Marine Corps screenshot of Paul Whelan in Moscow via Daily Beast