Prisoner Exchange for Paul Whelan Is 'Impossible' Right Now, Russian Official Reportedly Says

The Kremlin confirmed Saturday that U.S. authorities arrested a Russian national in late December, but downplayed the possibility that he might be exchanged for an American detained in Russia for alleged spying anytime soon, according to reports. Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, reportedly said that Dmitry Makarenko was arrested Dec. 29 in the Northern Mariana Islands, which is a U.S. commonwealth. Markarenjo was detained just one day after Paul Whelan, an American who also has Canadian, Irish and British citizenship, was collared in Moscow on suspicion of espionage, USA Today reports, citing the TASS news service. Makarenko, who reportedly ran a company in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, was charged by a federal grand jury in 2017 for allegedly plotting to export military equipment to Russia. He also stands accused of money laundering. Ryabkov claimed that American officials “failed to timely notify” his country about Makarenko’s arrest, which he claims violated international agreements governing consular relations. The official also said discussion of a possible exchange of Makarenko for Whelan wasn’t being considered for the time being, per USA Today. “As to the possibility of exchanges of one sort of another, it’s impossible and incorrect to consider the question now, when an official charge hasn’t even been presented,” he reportedly told state news agency RIA-Novosti.