Paul Whelan, the former U.S. Marine who was arrested in Moscow on December 28, has been accused by investigators of collecting secret information about one of Russia’s special service agencies, TV Rain reports. The independent station referenced an anonymous source familiar with the investigation. That source also said the FSB began building a file on Whelan in May 2018, well before his arrest, and that the file includes both telephone and online conversations.
TV Rain also spoke with multiple contacts of Whelan’s on the Russian social media service VKontakte. Those contacts said they wrote to their American friend about topics unrelated to state security. One of Whelan’s online contacts, Yury Golovin, said he corresponded with Whelan shortly before his arrest. Though Whelan’s brother had previously told journalists that the former Marine was in Russia to attend a wedding, Golovin said Whelan told him he was visiting to celebrate the new year.
Vladimir Zherebyonkov, Whelan’s attorney, told TV Rain that Whelan was deeply interested in Russian culture and religion and had toured the country for that reason. Zherebyonkov added that while he is not permitted to speak on many details of the case, he and his client are prepared to refute investigators’ claims as they emerge. Russian officials have previously accused Whelan of befriending men with connections to the Russian military as a setup for obtaining state secrets.