Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen detained in Russia for suspected spying, appears in a photo provided by the Whelan family on Jan. 1, 2019.
Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen detained in Russia for suspected spying, appears in a photo provided by the Whelan family on Jan. 1, 2019.

British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said Friday he was "extremely worried" about former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, a dual U.S.-British citizen who has been detained in Russia on espionage charges.

In an interview with Sky News, Hunt warned Russia that "individuals should not be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage" and that Britain is "giving him every support that we can."

The U.S. embassy disclosed Whelan's British citizenship to U.K. officials Thursday, according to Britain's Press Association. The disclosure came one day after U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. met with Whelan in a Moscow prison.

On Monday, Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officials said the 48-year-old Whelan had been detained on Dec. 28 "while carrying out an act of espionage," and a criminal probe has been ordered.

Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen detained in Russia for suspected spying, appears in a photo provided by the Whelan family on Jan. 1, 2019.
Michigan Man Visited Russia Frequently, Now Accused of Spying
As a staff sergeant with the Marines in Iraq, Paul Whelan enjoyed fine cigars and showed an affinity for Russia, even spending two weeks of military leave in Moscow and St. Petersburg instead of at home in the U.S. with family and friends.The 48-year-old Detroit-area man had an account on a Russian social media site, where he posted festive notes on the country’s national holidays.Now, he’s under arrest there on espionage allegations.Whelan has visited Russia since at least 2007 and was there again…

The FSB provided no further details, but Russia's state-run TASS news agency said Whelan faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. had asked Russia to explain why Whelan was arrested and would demand his detention if deemed inappropriate.

Whelan is employed as director of global security at BorgWarner, an American automotive parts supplier.

Whelan's family learned of his arrest only after it was reported by Russian state news outlets, prompting the family to contact congressional representatives and U.S. diplomats.

"We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being," the family said. "His innocence is undoubted, and we trust that his rights will be respected."

U.S. ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman looks on during a news conference of U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton in Moscow, June 27, 2018.
US Ambassador Meets With American Held in Russia 
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman on Wednesday visited the retired U.S. Marine who has been detained on espionage charges in Russia.He also spoke on the phone with the family of Paul Whelan, 48, according to a State Department statement that did not release any details of the call "due to privacy considerations for Mr. Whelan and his family.''    It did say, "Ambassador Huntsman expressed his support for Mr. Whelan and offered the embassy's assistance.''      Access was granted just hours after U…

Whelan's arrest coincides with several spy scandals that have exacerbated tensions between Russia and the West, including the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain.

News of Whelan's detention came less than 24 hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a New Year's greeting to U.S. President Donald Trump in which he said Moscow is amenable to a continuing dialogue with Washington on a range of topics.

Accused Russian agent Maria Butina pleads guilty to a single conspiracy charge in a deal with prosecutors and admitted to working with a top Russian official to infiltrate a powerful gun-rights group and influence U.S. policy toward Moscow, in this c...
Russian Spy’s Guilty Plea Illustrates Danger Facing US
Former top U.S. intelligence officials are warning the guilty plea by a former Russian graduate student and self-proclaimed gun-rights advocate should serve as a wake-up call about the Kremlin’s brazen desire and ability to interfere with the American political system.Maria Butina, a 30-year-old native of Siberia, entered the plea Thursday in Washington, admitting she worked with a top Russian official, and two other Americans, to infiltrate U.S. conservative groups and the Republican Party for Russia…

In 2016, Izvestia, a Kremlin-aligned news outlet, reported there were 13 U.S. citizens in Russian jails at the time. The Kremlin has not since published any details on other Americans currently in Russian detention.?