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Russia launches criminal case against American, alleges ‘biological’ spying

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his address to the nation at the Kremlin in Moscow on Feb. 21, 2022. (ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
February 19, 2023

Russia has launched a criminal case against an American citizen suspected of “biological” espionage, its main security agency announced on Thursday. 

The Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, did not name the American or confirm whether they’d been arrested, Reuters reported.

“The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation has opened a criminal case against a U.S. citizen on the grounds of a crime under Article 276 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation – ‘Espionage’,” the FSB said in a statement.

“The American is suspected of collecting intelligence on biological topics directed against the security of the Russian Federation,” the agency added.

The State Department said Thursday that it was looking into “unconfirmed reports” that Russia had opened the case.

“We’re looking into this matter and we’ll continue to monitor,” State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters.

Patel also said Russia doesn’t generally provide timely notification when U.S. citizens are detained in Russia, Reuters reported.

The FSB is the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB and reports directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Another American, Marine veteran Paul Whelan, is nearly three years into a 16-year prison sentence on espionage charges. Whelan has remained in prison even after a high-profile prisoner swap for WNBA star Brittney Griner, with U.S. officials saying Russia treats his case more harshly because he was charged with espionage.

Griner’s release was secured in exchange for the U.S. freeing Viktor Bout, an arms dealer nicknamed the “Merchant of Death.” He had been sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2012.

A Navy veteran was released from Russian custody earlier this month after being arrested for unclear reasons during a music festival in April. No prisoners were exchanged from the U.S. side.

Another American, Trevor Reed, was released in a Russian prisoner swap in April.