January 9, 2019 / 9:36 AM / 13 days ago

Kremlin says we won't use detained ex-U.S. marine as a pawn

FILE PHOTO: 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. Courtesy Whelan Family/Handout via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin on Wednesday rejected a British suggestion it might use a former U.S. Marine detained in Russia on espionage charges as a pawn in a diplomatic game and said it reserved the right to conduct counter-intelligence activities.

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who also holds a British passport, was detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service on Dec. 28. His family have said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

Commenting on the case earlier this month, British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said individuals should not be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage.

Asked about Hunt’s remark, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters:

“In Russia we never use people as pawns in diplomatic games. In Russia we conduct counter-intelligence activity against those suspected of espionage. That is done regularly.”

Reporting by Andrew Osborn and Tom Balmforth; Editing by Christian Lowe

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