SALT LAKE CITY — U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. says the Russian government needs to stop "playing games" with a former U.S. Marine being held in Moscow on espionage charges.
"If the Russians had evidence, they should bring it forward. We have seen nothing. We have heard words about espionage, but I don't think there's a case there," Huntsman told RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty in an interview Friday.
Russia's domestic intelligence agency detained Paul Whelan, a corporate security executive, in late December and accused him of spying. A Moscow court has refused to release him on bail.
Huntsman, the top American official in Russia, has visited Whelan in prison.
"I think about his family every day. I think about him every day," he said.
Huntsman said he hopes Whelan, who also has citizenship in Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom, is released as soon as possible.
"If there is no evidence and the Russians have not shown there is any evidence so far, then let's move on," he said "Let's move on and quit playing these games."
Huntsman said there are several cases of Americans imprisoned in Russia.
One involving prominent businessman Michael Calvey took a step in the right direction Thursday, he said. A court in Moscow released him from pretrial detention.
Calvey, the chief executive of the Russian investment firm Baring Vostok, was arrested in February for allegedly defrauding Russian businessman Artem Avetisyan, who is an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"We hope, as I know his family does, that this is resolved as quickly as possible," Huntsman said.
Huntsman made news earlier this week when sources revealed that he has not ruled out another run for governor in Utah. He won election in 2004 and was re-elected in 2008 before resigning to become U.S. ambassador to China. He will mark two years in Moscow this fall.
On possibly running for governor, Huntsman said there is "nothing to consider until our current commitment is done."