Russia Formally Charges USMC Veteran With Espionage

The New York Times reports:

The Russian authorities have brought espionage charges against an American citizen, Paul N. Whelan, who faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, the news agency Interfax reported on Thursday.

Mr. Whelan’s lawyer, Vladimir A. Zherebenkov, who said he spent much of Wednesday with Mr. Whelan, said he had found his client in an upbeat mood despite the long legal road that he faces. “I was surprised to see him being so confident,” said Mr. Zherebenkov, a high-profile criminal defense lawyer.

Mr. Whelan, 48, the head of global security for the Michigan auto parts maker BorgWarner and a Marine Corps veteran, was arrested last Friday and is being held in solitary confinement in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison.

Last night Rachel Maddow wondered if Whelan was arrested in order to trade him for convicted NRA-linked Russian spy Maria Butina. So-called “spy swaps” were common during the Cold War.

The Times notes that Whelan has had an account on the locally-popular Russian competitor to Facebook for about a decade, something they say is unusual for an infrequent visitor.