US accused of arresting Russian citizen one day after ex-marine detained in Moscow for spying
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed the United States detained a Russian citizen to face charges of attempting to export arms illegally and money laundering, just a day after an ex-marine was arrested in Moscow on spying charges.
- Former US marine Paul Whelan was arrested in Moscow on December 28, on spying charges
- Dmitrii Makarenko was arrested in a US territory on December 29, one day later
- The suggestion of a prisoner swap has been played down by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister
US federal court records show Dmitrii Makarenko was arrested in the American territory of the Northern Mariana Islands on December 29.
He is wanted in Florida on one count of conspiracy to export defence articles without a licence, four counts of attempting to export defence articles without a licence, and two counts of money laundering.
It comes just days after Moscow arrested the former US marine Paul Whelan, who has been accused of spying.
Mr Whelan, who also holds Canadian, British and Irish citizenship, was arrested by Russia’s Federal Security Service on December 28. His family have said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the US detained Mr Makarenko on December 29 and had since moved him to Florida.
“Mr Makarenko, born in 1979, has arrived on Saipan Island with his wife, underage children and elderly parents. He was detained by FBI personnel at the airport right after his arrival,” the ministry said.
The Russian ministry said in its statement that Moscow diplomats had not been able to reach Mr Makarenko in Florida and said Washington had yet to explain his detention.
Before Moscow gave details of Mr Makarenko’s detention, experts had speculated that Moscow could exchange Mr Whelan for other Russian nationals held by Washington.
Tweet from David Whelan: 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.
Commenting on that possibility, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying: “I see no reasons to raise this issue in context of exchanges. We should undergo all the procedures needed in this situation.”
Some Russian news reports earlier had cited unnamed sources as saying that Mr Whelan had been indicted on charges that could bring 20 years in prison if convicted.
The 48-year-old Mr Whelan, a former US marine who left the military with a bad-conduct discharge, is global security director for a US automobile parts manufacturer.
The accusations from both sides could further complicate the already strained relationship between Moscow and Washington, despite the professed desire of presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin to build a personal rapport.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this week that Washington had asked Moscow to explain Mr Whelan’s arrest and would demand his immediate return if it determined his detention is inappropriate.