Russia says not willing to exchange detained ex-U.S. marine
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday the United States had detained a Russian citizen, days after Moscow arrested former U.S. marine Paul Whelan on suspicion of spying.
Whelan was held by Russia's Federal Security Service on December 28.
His family have said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.
The ministry said Russian citizen Dmitry Makarenko was detained on the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth in the Pacific Ocean, on December 29 and was later moved to Florida.
"... Makarenko, born in 1979, has arrived on Saipan Island with his wife, underage children and elderly parents. He was detained by FBI personnel at the airport right after his arrival," the ministry said.
The U.S. embassy in Moscow could not immediately be reached for comment.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this week Washington had asked Moscow to explain Whelan's arrest and would demand his immediate return if it determined his detention is inappropriate.
Britain cautioned Russia on Friday that individuals should not be used as diplomatic pawns. Whelan also holds a British passport.
The Russian ministry said in its statement Moscow diplomats had not been able to reach Makarenko in Florida and said Washington had yet to explain his detention.
Before Moscow gave details of Makarenko's detention, experts had speculated that Moscow could exchange Whelan for Russian nationals held by Washington.
Commenting on that possibility, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying on Saturday, "I see no reasons to raise this issue in the context of exchanges. We should undergo all the procedures needed in this situation."
Russia, U.S. plan no direct contacts for early 2019
Russia and the U.S. have not scheduled any direct contacts for the beginning of 2019 so far, Ryabkov said.
In November, following the cancellation of a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump, the latter called off another previously scheduled meeting with his Russian counterpart on the sidelines of the Group of 20 in Argentine capital Buenos Aires.
Ryabkov noted that Moscow and Washington have continued working contacts through correspondence and embassies, such as a recent telephone conversation between the chief of Russia's General Staff Valery Gerasimov and the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford.
Putin has repeatedly said that he is ready to meet with Trump and discuss multiple issues on the bilateral and international agendas.
(Top image: A view of the Russian Foreign Ministry building in Moscow, April 6, 2018. /VCG Photo)