Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan has been sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison for espionage, The Washington Post reports. Whelan has repeatedly denied the allegations, claiming that he was framed when he was unwittingly handed a flash drive containing “state secrets” during a trip to Russia for a wedding in late 2018. Whelan has claimed he thought the flash drive only contained vacation photos—not sensitive information. Before his sentencing, Whelan reportedly shouted in court that his case had been a “political charade” and said that Russia “feels impotent in the world, so it’s taking political hostages.” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said Whelan was caught “red-handed,” while the U.S. embassy in Russia has described the case as a “mockery of justice.” There’s speculation that Russia may offer Whelan as part of a U.S. prisoner exchange.
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