Russia denies seizing US citizen as a bargaining chip

Source: Washington Examiner | January 9, 2019 | Joel Gehrke

Russian President Vladimir Putin does not plan to use detained American Paul Whelan as a bargaining chip with the United States to win the release of his own spies, a top Russian official said Wednesday.

“In Russia, people are never used as pawns in a diplomatic game,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to TASS, Russia’s state-run news outlet.

Russian officials arrested Whelan last month on charges of espionage. His family maintains that he was traveling for a friend’s wedding, while Western officials have speculated that he might be used in a swap for a Russian woman who has pleaded guilty to working as a foreign agent to influence U.S. politics in 2016. But Peskov indicated that Russia is not angling to swap Whelan for the woman, Maria Butina.

He spoke soon after British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned Russia against tit-for-tat detentions.

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