MOSCOW — Russian authorities said Monday they had detained a U.S. citizen for alleged spying, setting the tone for more confrontation between the two countries in the new year.
American Paul Whelan was arrested on Dec. 28 while “carrying out spying activities,” Russia’s main security agency, the FSB, said in a brief statement without providing further details.
The State Department said Monday that the U.S. is aware of the detention of a U.S. citizen in Russia, but didn’t comment on his identity or occupation, citing privacy considerations. A spokeswoman said the U.S. has received formal notification of the detention from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and has requested access to the American, in accordance with the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Whelan could face up to 20 years in jail if he is convicted of spying.
“The law of retaliation states, ‘An eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth,’ ” Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters earlier this month when asked how his government would respond to politically motivated arrests. “But we will not arrest innocent people simply to exchange them for someone else later on.”
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