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Kremlin denies US man being held in Russia as 'pawn'

AFP  |  Moscow 

The Kremlin on Wednesday denied Western allegations that it is using Paul Whelan, an American held in on suspicion of espionage, as a in a political game.

"never uses people as pawns in some diplomatic game," Kremlin responded in comments to journalists.

"carries out counterintelligence activities against those who are suspected of espionage," Peskov said. "This is done regularly."

He spoke after British warned Friday that Whelan, who also holds British, Irish and Canadian passports, should not be used as a in "diplomatic chess games".

Analysts have speculated that Whelan, 48, was arrested to pave the way for a possible swap with a Russian agent arrested abroad, possibly Marina Butina, a who was convicted of being a "foreign agent" in the last month.

arrested Whelan, a at a company and former US Marine, on December 28, saying that he was caught "while carrying out an act of espionage".

Whelan's family said he was visiting for a friend's wedding and US security experts have raised doubts over whether he was a

has reported that the Marine Corps court-martialed in 2008 on charges of larceny and passing bad checks, an offence that in most cases disqualifies candidates from foreign intelligence work.

Whelan's Russian said his client had been charged with espionage, although later said has not yet been formally charged. Espionage is punishable by up to 20 years in jail.

The US to Russia, Jon Huntsman, has visited at

The British, Canadian and Irish embassies have also been granted consular access to Whelan, his family said Tuesday.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, January 09 2019. 18:20 IST