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

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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.

6 mins ago - Sports

Steelers-Titans NFL game delayed after coronavirus outbreak

A worker cleans a handrail at a Tennessee Titans game. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The NFL announced that Sunday's game between the Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers has been delayed after several Titans players and staffers tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: It's the league's first game delay caused by a COVID-19 outbreak during the season, which is not taking place in a "bubble," like the NBA and MLS.

Tim Scott says Trump "misspoke" when he told Proud Boys to "stand by"

Photo: Bonnie Cash/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told reporters on Wednesday that he believes President Trump "misspoke" when he told the far-right "Proud Boys" group to "stand back and stand by" in response to a question about condemning white supremacy at the first presidential debate.

Catch up quick: Moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump on Tuesday, "Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down?" Trump asked who specifically he should condemn, and then responded, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left."