British government concerned after Russian Federation detains United Kingdom citizen on espionage charges

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The government is "extremely worried" about the fate of a dual British-American citizen charged with espionage in Russian Federation, warning that he could be used in a "diplomatic chess game".

Russian media say Whelan has been formally indicted for spying and could face up to 20 years in prison.

In a statement issued this afternoon, Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs said: "The Embassy of Ireland in Moscow has requested consular access to an Irish citizen now detained in Russian Federation after receiving a request for assistance".

Whelan is an American citizen, but he's also the son of British citizens.

"Because it is desperately worrying, not just for the individual but their families, and we are extremely anxious about him and his family as we hear this news".

The Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, has said MI resident Whelan, a 48-year-old corporate security director from the Detroit area, was arrested on espionage charges.

The details of the charges against Paul Whelan from a special court-martial that resulted in his discharge for bad conduct add to an increasingly complex picture of the former Marine, whom Russian officials have accused of spying.

Mr Whelan's friends had previously filed a missing persons report in Moscow after his disappearance, while his family insist his innocence is "undoubted".

"Individuals should not be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage", the U.K."s Hunt said Friday".

The U.S. ambassador to Russian Federation, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, visited Paul Whelan in jail on Wednesday, after the U.S. requested access to him. "Then we will see", he said, according to the Interfax news agency. The U.S.is leading the effort.

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The details of Whelan's convictions in the Marine Corps come as Moscow copes with the diplomatic fallout of detaining a man who appears to be a citizen of four countries. A representative of the British embassy in Russian Federation confirmed to TASS that Whelan detained on suspicion of espionage holds a British passport, and that London had requested consular access to him.

Mr Whelan has been visiting Russian Federation for over a decade for business and pleasure, his twin brother said today.

He said the family's "focus remains on ensuring that Paul is safe, well treated, has a good lawyer, and is coming home".

Image: There are suspicions the arrest may be used to set up an exchange for Maria Butina.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday the US would demand Whelan's immediate return if the detention was not deemed appropriate.

"We urge the U.S. Congress and the State Department to help on Paul's behalf to secure his release and return him home soon", the family said.

The foreign secretary said former United States marine Paul Whelan, who was born in Canada to British parents and lives in MI, was being given "every support that we can".

Accusations made by former foreign secretary Boris Johnson that the Kremlin was behind the nerve agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury previous year were dismissed by Vladimir Putin.

U.K. -Russian relations were sharply damaged by the Salisbury nerve agent poisoning in March, for which Russia has angrily denied involvement. The highest rank he attained was staff sergeant.

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