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Paul Whelan holds up a message inside a defendants' cage in Moscow. Photo: Dimitar Dilkoff / AFP

Russian prosecutors on Monday asked for the maximum 18-year jail term for former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who is on trial for espionage charges that he denies, Reuters reports.

The state of play: Whelan, an American citizen who also holds British, Canadian and Irish passports, was arrested in Moscow in December 2018 after allegedly receiving a USB drive containing classified information. Whelan claims he did not know it was classified material and says it was a sting operation set up by Russian intelligence.

  • The details of Whelan's trial, which is expected to produce a verdict on June 15, have been kept relatively quiet as Russia claims the case involves classified information.
  • But Whelan's lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, has been revealing details to the press: “The prosecution has made a very harsh demand, it’s absolutely unjustified and groundless. To be honest, we’re in shock," Zherebenkov said Monday.

What they're saying: U.S. officials have called for Wheelan’s release, describing his case as a “significant obstacle” to improving bilateral ties between Russia and the U.S.

  • U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan said, "There is no legitimacy to a procedure that is hidden behind closed doors. It is not transparent, it is not fair, and it is not impartial."

Go deeper: Trump confidant lobbying to free U.S. citizen Paul Whelan from Russia

Go deeper

Updated Aug 25, 2020 - World

U.S. says Russia must investigate poisoning of Putin critic Alexei Navalny

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Photo: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said Tuesday that Russia must conduct an "immediate, comprehensive, and transparent investigation" on the apparent poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later issued a statement saying he is "deeply concerned" and supports calls for a "comprehensive investigation."

Why it matters: Sullivan's statement was the first from a top American official demanding that Russia take action since Navalny was first admitted to a hospital last week.

24 mins ago - World

Putin foe Navalny to be detained for 30 days after returning to Moscow

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Photo: Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days, following his arrest upon returning to Russia on Sunday for the first time since a failed assassination attempt last year.

Why it matters: The detention of Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and the most prominent domestic critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has already set off a chorus of condemnations from leaders in Europe and the U.S.

Biden picks Warren allies to lead SEC, CFPB

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has selected FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra to be the next director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Obama-era Wall Street regulator Gary Gensler to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Why it matters: Both picks are progressive allies of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and viewed as likely to take aggressive steps to regulate big business.