A Moscow court on Thursday authorized holding Russian-born U.S. citizen Gene Spector—already behind bars in Russia—on espionage charges.
Spector, who had been an executive at a medical equipment company in Russia, was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison last September on accusations he enabled bribes to an aide of former Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich. The aide, Anastasia Alekseyeva, was sentenced in April to 12 years for taking bribes in the form of two expensive overseas vacations.
Espionage is is punishable with a prison term of 10 to 20 years in Russia.
Regarding Spector’s case, a State Department spokesperson told CNN the department was “aware of reports of charges against a U.S. citizen in Russia,” adding that officials were “monitoring the situation but have no further comment at this time.”
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone with Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen serving 16 years in a Russian penal colony. Blinken told the former Marine to “keep the faith and we’re doing everything we can to bring you home as soon as possible.”
Officials in the State Department’s Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs have been working to secure Whelan’s release as well as that of U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich, both of whom have been given the State Department’s designation of “wrongfully detained” in Russia.