Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister brushed back suggestions on Saturday January 5th that an American being held in Moscow on suspicion of spying could be exchanged for a Russian citizen.
Paul Whelan, a former US Marine who also holds Canadian, British and Irish citizenship, was detained in Moscow in late December. His arrest has led to speculation that Russia could be using him to bargain for a Russian woman who has pleaded guilty to acting as a foreign agent in the US.
As reported by AP, the brother of Paul Whelan, David Whelan, said via Skype from Newmarket, Ontario, "You look at what is going on and you wonder if this is just a large game of pieces being moved around. You start to wonder if all of these things are connected. But at the same time, they could just be arbitrary events."
Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that discussing a possible swap involving Whelan and Maria Butina would be premature because Whelan has not been formally charged, according to Russian news agencies.
Ryabkov was quoted as saying by state news agency RIA-Novosti, "As to the possibility of exchanges of one sort of another, it is impossible and incorrect to consider the question now when an official charge has not even been presented. Charges will be presented in the near future."