The former US navy accused of espionage in Russia is a British citizen World news

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The former US marine who is detained in Moscow on charges of espionage is a British citizen, he emerged.

Paul Whelan, who is expected to face 20 years in a Russian prison if convicted, was initially thought to be American, but was revealed to be a double citizen on Thursday evening. The United Kingdom Foreign Office said: "Our staff requested consular access to a British man who was detained in Russia after receiving a request for assistance from him."

The 48-year-old lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said he had applied for the release of Whelan on bail, although there is no immediate decision. According to the Associated Press, Zherebenkov said that he visited Whelan on Wednesday and found him in a "very confident" state of mind.

The US ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, met Whelan in the Lefortovo prison, the former KGB facility where he is detained, on the same day. The ambassador said that Washington has complained to the Russian government over the period of time it took to grant consular access to Whelan after his arrest.

Whelan works for a Michigan auto parts supplier and, according to the Rosbalt news agency, was arrested shortly after receiving a USB drive containing a list of classified names. The information can not be verified independently of the Guardian.

His brother, David, said: "We did not have any details from the state department about the circumstances of Paul's arrest."

David Whelan has previously stated that his brother was in Moscow for the marriage of a former marine. "This visit was entirely for pleasure, from what I understood," he said. The Whelan family added that it was in Russia "numerous times", as early as 2007.

The Russian authorities have said little about Whelan's arrest, except that he was accused of "having carried out an act of espionage".

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