Paul Whelan, the security chief of an international auto parts manufacturer, loved to travel around Russia and was in contact on social media with ordinary citizens there, including retired members of the military.
On Thursday, the Russian authorities charged Mr. Whelan, 48, with espionage. The U.S. government refused to publicly discuss Mr. Whelan’s status in detail, but former C.I.A. officers said they didn’t think he was a spy.
Why it matters: Mr. Whelan’s arrest comes after a Russian woman, Maria Butina, pleaded guilty last month in Washington to conspiring to act as a foreign agent. Current and former officials said it was possible Mr. Whelan was seized to exchange him for Ms. Butina.