Russia denies talk of spy swap for detained Marine

Russia denies talk of spy swap for detained Marine
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Russia's government on Friday dismissed claims that it is considering swapping detained former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan for the release of one of its own citizens.

Russia's foreign ministry dismissed rumors that Moscow would consider releasing Whelan, who has been detained in the country on suspicion of espionage, in exchange for the release of Maria Butina, a Russian woman charged in the U.S. with acting as an unregistered foreign agent, the Associated Press reports.

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“There is no talk," of a prisoner swap, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Friday, according to the report.

Her denials follow those of Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, who told reporters this week that Whelan was not being used as a "pawn" against the Trump administration.

"In Russia people are never used as pawns in a diplomatic game," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said of Whelan, according to a Russian news service.

"Russia conducts counterintelligence activity against those who are suspected of espionage, this is done on a regular basis."

Whelan was detained late last month in Russia on suspicion of spying. His family members have said that Whelan was in the country attending a wedding when he was arrested.

His arrest comes amid months of tense relations between Russia and the U.S. over such issues as U.S. election interference, the arrest of Butina and the attempted murder of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom.