US national Paul Whelan, 48, was detained during a "spy operation" in Moscow in late December on suspicion of espionage, according to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). On Thursday, a Moscow court ruled to arrest him on espionage charges.

US diplomats working in the Russian capital have informed UK officials of Whelan's arrest and the fact that he is also a UK national, The Times newspaper reported.

"Staff have requested consular access to a British man detained in Russia after receiving a request for assistance," the UK Foreign Office told the outlet.

Notably, on Wednesday, Global Affairs Canada told the local CBC broadcaster it was aware that a Canadian national had been arrested in Russia in the wake of Whelan’s detention in Moscow. However, Whelan’s brother could not confirm to the broadcaster if Whelan had Canadian citizenship. 

Whelan is the director of global security for Michigan-based automotive components supplier BorgWarner. Media have reported, citing his brother, that Whelan went to Russia to attend a friend’s wedding but never made it to the event.

Moreover, media have reported that Whelan was a former US marine. His service record, released by the media, showed he had been convicted in 2008 on theft charges.