Russian official suggests swapping Russian pilot for Novi man accused of spying

Paul Whelan in custody since December on espionage accusations

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NOVI, Mich. – Russia is floating the idea of a prisoner swap involving a Novi resident accused of spying and a Russian pilot being held by the United States.

Paul Whelan has been in a Russian prison since December on accusations of espionage, a charge he and his family call ludicrous.

Whelan claims he's been a pawn since his arrest.

The deputy Russian foreign minister is suggesting the U.S. release a Russian pilot it's holding in return for Whelan's release.

Whelan was arrested in December and thrown in Russia's Lefortovo Prison. He worked in security for BorgWarner Inc. and said he was in Moscow for a friend's wedding.

Whelan said his treatment in Russia has gotten increasingly worse.

Russia's deputy foreign minister is on record proposing a swap that would give unnamed American prisoners their release in return for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot convicted of drug smuggling.

Yaroshenko is currently serving a 20-year sentence.

Whelan has yet to be convicted in Russia, but the country's Foreign Ministry is urging a deal before his trial.

U.S. officials haven't commented on the proposed swap.

Officials with the U.S. Embassy in Moscow are concerned about Whelan's health and said the Russians will not allow him to be examined by an external doctor.

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