US citizen held in Russia accused of espionage


Russian news agency TASS reported that an American citizen was charged with espionage in Moscow on Thursday.

Gene Spector, a former pharma executive, was convicted in a Russian court last year of bribery, the agency said. He allegedly confessed to bribing former Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison.

Court opinions on such crimes are often held behind closed doors in Russia.

The reason for the espionage charge is not clear.

The State Department said in a statement Thursday that it is aware of reports of accusations against a US citizen in Russia.

“We are monitoring the situation but have no further comment at this time,” the ministry said.

Russia is holding two other Americans on high-profile espionage charges that their families and the US government deny.

Paul Whelan has been imprisoned in Russia since December 2018 and was sentenced to 16 years in prison two years after his arrest. He was the head of global security for a Michigan-based auto parts supplier at the time.

The FSB accused Ivan Gershkovich, an American journalist working for the Wall Street Journal, of collecting “information constituting a state secret about the activities of a subsidiary of the Russian military-industrial complex.” According to TASS, he could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

He is the first journalist from an American outlet to be arrested for espionage in Russia since the Cold War

Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said earlier Thursday that Secretary Anthony Blinken spoke with Whelan on Wednesday. Patel said Whelan spoke to Blinken about his current circumstances.

“I will note again that Secretary Blinken made a serious proposal to Russia to release Paul Whelan, and our view remains that Russia should immediately release Paul Whelan and Ivan Gershkovitch,” Patel said.

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