Russia official: It’s too early to consider swap of spy suspect
MOSCOW — Russia’s deputy foreign minister brushed back suggestions Saturday that an American being held in Moscow on suspicion of spying could be exchanged for a Russian citizen.
Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, who also holds Canadian, British and Irish citizenship, was detained in Moscow in late December. His arrest has led to speculation that Russia could be using him to bargain for a Russian who pleaded guilty to acting as a foreign agent in the United States.
But Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that discussing a possible swap involving Whelan and Maria Butina would be premature because Whelan hasn’t been formally charged.
Some Russian news reports earlier cited unnamed sources as saying Whelan had been indicted on espionage charges.