Britain warned Russia on Friday against playing “diplomatic chess games” following the arrest of Paul Whelan, an ex-Marine with dual UK and US citizenship, on charges of espionage.
“We don’t agree with individuals being used in diplomatic chess games... We are all extremely worried about him and his family,” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC in an interview.
“We need to see what these charges are against him,” Hunt said, adding that Britain had offered consular access to Whelan but had not been able to visit him yet.
US ambassador Jon Huntsman visited Whelan at the Lefortovo prison in Moscow on Wednesday.
Asked whether the Foreign Office would change its travel advice for British citizens going to Russia, Hunt said: “This is obviously something that is under active consideration.”
Whelan’s lawyer said on Thursday that he was detained in Moscow last week and charged with espionage.
Whelan, who has denied the charges, could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.
Diplomatic relations between Britain and Russia are tense, particularly following the attempted murder of a former Russian spy in Britain last year with a nerve agent.
Britain accused Russia of being behind the attack despite Moscow’s denials, and coordinated the expulsions of dozens of Russian diplomatic staff around the world.
On New Year Eve, Russia’s domestic security service (FSB) said it had detained an American citizen suspected of spying in Moscow, local news agencies reported.