Ex-Marine arrested in Moscow for ‘spying’ is innocent, family says

Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen detained in Russia for suspected spying, appears in a photo provided by the Whelan family on January 1, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 02 January 2019
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Ex-Marine arrested in Moscow for ‘spying’ is innocent, family says

  • Russia’s FSB domestic security service said the American was arrested on Friday “while carrying out an act of espionage”

WASHINGTON: An American ex-Marine arrested in Moscow for alleged espionage is innocent, his family said Tuesday.
The detention of Paul Whelan marked the latest in a series of espionage cases between Russia and the West.
“We have read reports of the arrest in Moscow of Paul Whelan, our son and brother,” said a statement posted on Twitter by David Whelan, who said he is the brother of Paul.
“Paul is a retired Marine and was visiting Moscow to attend a wedding,” it continued, adding that he stopped being in communication with his family on Friday, “which was very much out of character for him even when he was traveling.”
The family added they learned of the arrest through the media on Monday morning and had been in touch with US lawmakers, as well as the State Department.
“We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being. His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected,” the statement said.
Russia’s FSB domestic security service said the American was arrested on Friday “while carrying out an act of espionage.”
A criminal case had been opened under Article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code which allows for prison sentences of up to 20 years, the FSB said in a statement.
Whelan’s employer, US-based automotive components supplier BorgWarner, said that he is the firm’s director of global security.
“He is responsible for overseeing security at our facilities in Auburn Hills, Michigan and at other company locations around the world,” the company said in a statement, adding it has been in contact with relevant US authorities “in order to help our employee and the US government.”

Born 48 years ago in Canada, Whelan had gone to Moscow for the marriage of a fellow ex-Marine with a Russian woman, his brother David told US media.
Speaking to Canada’s CBC News, David Whelan said “there’s no chance” the Russian accusations against his brother are accurate.
“Paul has a law enforcement background. He is a Marine. He has worked in corporate security, and he is very aware of both the rule of law and the risks of traveling in countries that may have risks to travelers,” the brother said.
“There’s no chance that he would have taken those sorts of risks while on a trip to Moscow, let alone to break any law but to break the espionage act.”
The US State Department said Monday it had been formally notified by Russia’s foreign ministry and was seeking access to the detained American.
“Russia’s obligations under the Vienna Convention require them to provide consular access. We have requested this access and expect Russian authorities to provide it,” the State Department said.
“There is apparently a window of about 72 hours which has to pass before anybody can see Paul and that time hasn’t passed as of today,” Whelan’s brother told CBC.
“So we are hoping tomorrow that we will hear about Paul’s condition and his well-being.”
The arrest came after President Vladimir Putin accused Western nations of using espionage cases to try to undermine an increasingly powerful Russia.
US intelligence services have accused Moscow of interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has charged 25 Russians — including members of the GRU military intelligence — and three Russian companies for that alleged interference but they have not been arrested.
In December, Russian national Maria Butina pleaded guilty in a Federal Court in Washington to acting as an illegal foreign agent.
Butina faces up to six months in prison, followed by likely deportation.


Monsoon flooding death toll rises to 152 in South Asia

Updated 20 July 2019
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Monsoon flooding death toll rises to 152 in South Asia

  • At least 90 people have died in Nepal and 50 in northeastern India’s Assam state over the past week
  • South Asia’s monsoon rains, which hit the region from June to September, are crucial for the rain-fed crops planted during the season

GAUHATI, India: The death toll in monsoon flooding in South Asia has risen to 152 as millions of people and animals continue to face the brunt in three countries, officials said Saturday.
At least 90 people have died in Nepal and 50 in northeastern India’s Assam state over the past week. A dozen have been killed in Bangladesh.
Shiv Kumar, a government official in Assam, said 10 rare one-horned rhinos have died in Kaziranga National Park since the Brahmaputra River burst its banks, flooding the reserve.
Some 4.8 million people spread over 3,700 villages across the state are still affected by the floods, though the frequency of rains has decreased in the past 24 hours, the Assam Disaster Response Authority said. More than 2.5 million have also been hit by flooding in India’s Bihar state.
Amid the flooding, 20-year-old Imrana Khatoon delivered her first baby on a boat in floodwaters early Friday while on her way to a hospital in Assam’s flooded Gagalmari village, locals said. The woman and the newborn were brought back to their home without getting to the hospital.
Community health worker Parag Jyoti Das, who visited the family, said there were no post-delivery health complications. However, the mother and the child were moved to a hospital on a boat to the nearby town of Jhargaon because of unhygienic conditions due to floodwaters, Das said. The health center in Khatoon’s village was flooded and closed.
“I would have felt happier if the baby’s father was here,” said Khatoon, whose husband works in a hotel in the southern state of Kerala.
More than 147,000 people have taken shelter in 755 government-run camps across Assam, officials said.
Authorities warned they would take action against suppliers who were reported to be distributing poor quality rice and other essentials to marooned people and inmates of temporary shelters at some places.
“We have ordered the arrest of those unscrupulous elements supplying substandard materials and playing with the lives of the affected people,” said Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam’s finance minister.
In Nepal, the Home Ministry said about 36,728 families were affected by the monsoon rains. The flooding and mudslides forced some 13,000 families to flee their homes.
In at least two of Nepal’s districts, helicopters were used to transport emergency food supplies, while other transport means were being used to move tents and other supplies to the victims.
South Asia’s monsoon rains, which hit the region from June to September, are crucial for the rain-fed crops planted during the season.