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Russia formally charges American Paul Whelan with espionage

Vladimir Putin sitting in a chair in a suit and tie
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russian news agency Interfax said that Russian authorities formally brought espionage charges against American citizen Paul Whelan on Thursday, per the New York Times.

The backdrop: Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, was arrested in Moscow last Friday and could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. Intelligence experts believe he may have been detained as retribution for the arrest of confessed Russian agent Maria Butina. Whelan pleaded not guilty to espionage charges, according to his lawyer.

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