American citizen in Russian custody is accused of espionage

A U.S. citizen was charged with espionage in Moscow on Thursday, according to the Russian state news agency Tass.

Gene Spector, a former pharmaceuticals executive, was convicted bribery in a Russian court last year, the agency said. He allegedly admitted to bribing former Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and was sentenced to 3½ years in prison.

Court sessions for such offenses are often held behind closed doors in Russia.

The basis for the espionage charge is unclear.

The State Department said in a statement Thursday it was aware of reports of charges against a U.S. citizen in Russia.

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

Russia is holding two other Americans on high-profile spying charges, which their families and the U.S. government have denied.

Paul Whelan, who has been jailed in Russia since December 2018, was sentenced to 16 years in prison two years after his arrest. He was the head of global security for an auto parts supplier in Michigan at the time.

Evan Gershkovich, a U.S. journalist working for The Wall Street Journal, was accused by the Federal Security Service of collecting “information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.” He could face up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted, according to Tass.

He is the first journalist from a U.S. outlet to be arrested on espionage charges in Russia since the Cold War.

Deputy State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said earlier Thursday that Secretary Antony Blinken spoke with Whelan on Wednesday. Patel said Whelan talked about his current conditions.

“I will just note again that Secretary Blinken offered Russia a serious proposal for Paul Whelan’s release and that our view continues to be that Russia should immediately release Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich,” Patel said.


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