Russia accuses US citizen of espionage and opens criminal case

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Diplomatic relations have been strained by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the conflict nears its one-year anniversary. The FSB, Russia’s security service, declared on Thursday that it has launched a criminal investigation against a US citizen who is suspected of espionage.

The person has not been identified by Russia’s security service and no other details have been provided.

It is unknown if the suspect has been arrested by the security service.

The FSB said: “The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation initiated a criminal case against a US citizen on the grounds of a crime under the 276 ‘Espionage’ Article of the Criminal Code.

“The American is suspected of collecting intelligence information in the biological sphere, directed against the security of the Russian Federation.”

In its response to the claims from Russia, the United States accused Moscow of failing to follow its responsibility to notify Washington of its detention of US citizens.

The claims follow a number of high-profile detentions of US citizens which have resulted in some exchanged with Russians in the US.

However, controversially, Russia is typically known for refusing to release citizens that it accuses of espionage.

The US state department noted that it is aware of the “unconfirmed reports” that Russia has opened this new criminal case.

The State Department deputy spokesperson, Vedant Patel, said: “We are looking into this matter and we’ll continue to monitor.

“Generally, the Russian Federation does not abide by its obligations to provide timely notification of the detention of US citizens.”

In December, US basketball player Brittney Griner was finally freed after being sentenced in Russia to nine years in prison under drug charges.

Ms Griner was part of an exchange deal for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who was in prison for 14 years in the United States.

Bout was imprisoned for arms trafficking, money laundering and conspiring to murder Americans.

Spying and espionage cases are much more of a struggle to secure a release as the FSB remains reluctant to release those accused of spying.

US Maine Corps veteran Paul Whelan was arrested by the FSB in 2018 under espionage charges and was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020.

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Russia has so far refused to strike an exchange deal with the US to return Mr Whelan.

Paul’s brother David Whelan said: “It is clear the US government has no concessions the Russian government will take for Paul Whelan.”

President Biden addressed Griner’s release and Whelan’s continued detention, saying: “Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s.

“And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up. We will never give up.”

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