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Russia arrests suspected American spy

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo shows officers enlisted with Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB)

Russia's domestic security apparatus has arrested an American citizen in Moscow on suspicion of espionage, starting a court action against him.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) named the detainee as "Paul Whelan," saying he had been nabbed on Friday during a "spying action," various Russian news outlets reported on Monday, citing an FSB statement.

"The FSB began criminal proceedings against the man under Article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code, which covers the crime of espionage," Russia Today said, adding, "No details of the suspect’s identity or facts surrounding the operation were immediately disclosed."

Relations between Russia and the West, especially the United States, have been tense since the Cold War.

The ties soured further in 2014, when the Crimean Peninsula voted in favor of joining the Russian Federation. The allies have ever since slapped multiple rounds of sanctions targeting Moscow and arrested many Russian individuals for "espionage."

In October, the US Ministry of Justice accused seven Russians of being military intelligence officers, and charged them with hacking and financial fraud.

Four of the men were expelled from the Netherlands in April for allegedly attempting to hack the UN chemical watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Washington separately accuses Moscow of interfering in its 2016 presidential elections.

The Kremlin spurns the arrests as "spy mania" and roundly rejects the meddling claims.

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