Russia denies any plan to swap spying suspect

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MOSCOW, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- Russia does not plan to exchange a suspected foreign spy for any Russian arrested abroad, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Friday.

"At this stage, there is no talk of an exchange of Paul Whelan for anyone in custody abroad," said Zakharova at a weekly news briefing.

"All versions discussed in the media are no more than speculations. The accused will face a trial," she said.

Zakharova recalled that Whelan was "caught red-handed while committing an act of espionage" in Moscow on Dec. 28.

As Whelan entered Russia using a U.S. passport, U.S. diplomats were promptly granted consular access to the detainee, Zakharova said.

During the investigation it turned out that Whelan also has citizenships of Great Britain, Ireland and Canada, so the embassies of those countries were immediately notified, she said.

As they also requested to visit Whelan, it was agreed that they will be given such an opportunity at a "mutually convenient time," Zakharova said.

Whelan's brother earlier told media that the detainee, a former Marine, went to Moscow to attend a friend's wedding.

Media speculated that Whelan could be exchanged for Maria Butina, who is being held in custody in the United States.

Butina pleaded guilty in a Washington court on Dec. 13 to a single conspiracy charge, admitting that she had acted as an unregistered foreign agent to advance Moscow's interests. Enditem

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