American arrested in Russia on spy charges

Russia's domestic security agency has detained a U.S. citizen suspected of espionage, according to the Federal Security Service of Russia.

The security agency said officers detained American Paul Whelan during a spy operation in Moscow on Friday. 


"The investigative department of the FSB of Russia against a US citizen opened a criminal case under article 276 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation ['Espionage']," FSB told the Russian news agency Tass. 

The Associated Press described FSB as the top KGB successor agency in Russia. The spying charges leveled against Whelan could carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years, according to the AP. 

The security agency has offered no further details on the crimes it alleges Whelan has committed. 

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow did not immediately return a request for comment from the news service. 

The arrest of Whelan comes as relations between the U.S. and Russia become contentious. President TrumpDonald TrumpChinese apps could face subpoenas, bans under Biden executive order: report Kim says North Korea needs to be 'prepared' for 'confrontation' with US Ex-Colorado GOP chair accused of stealing more than 0K from pro-Trump PAC MORE earlier this month declined to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina after Russian vessels opened fire on and seized Ukrainian ships. 

Putin on Sunday sent a holiday letter to Trump in which he "stressed that Russia-US relations are the most important factor behind ensuring strategic stability and international security, and reaffirmed that Russia is open to dialogue with the United States on the most extensive agenda," according to a statement from the Kremlin.

The arrest also comes as Maria Butina, a Russian woman arrested earlier this year, pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government in the U.S. earlier this month.

She faces a maximum of five years in prison.

Updated at 9:49 a.m.