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American Paul Whelan, a former Marine sentenced in 2020 in Russia to 16 years in prison for espionage, will ask to be transferred to a U.S. prison, his lawyer said Wednesday.
His lawyer, Olga Karlova, told RIA Novosti news agency that she is preparing with her client a petition to the Moscow City Court so that “Whelan can serve his sentence in the United States.”
According to the lawyer, the American can make such a request under Article 470 of the Russian Code of Criminal Procedure.
Whelan was detained on December 28, 2018, by Federal Security Service (FSB) agents in a Moscow hotel for alleged “espionage activities” on behalf of the United States.
Russian authorities accused him of having received from an acquaintance a memory stick that allegedly “contained the complete list of workers of a secret service.”
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The convict, who is serving his sentence in a prison in the Republic of Mordovia, in the European part of Russia, denied all accusations and called the case a “political kidnapping”, while his family claimed that Whelan had traveled to Moscow to attend a wedding.
The case has been one of the most high-profile in recent years in Russia and every so often his lawyers float the idea of a pardon by Russian President Vladimir Putin or a prisoner swap.
His name came up again at the meeting between Putin and his American counterpart, Joe Biden, in June in Geneva.
Putin noted then that Moscow and Washington may reach “certain compromises” to exchange their imprisoned citizens.
Seventeen American citizens, many of them dual citizens, are currently held in Russian prisons, according to a list of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service, which was handed over to the Foreign Ministry on the eve of the summit.
Of these, in addition to Whelan’s case, the most notorious is that of Trevor Reed, sentenced in 2020 to nine years in prison for having assaulted police officers in Moscow a year earlier.
Of the Russians serving prison sentences in the United States, the best known is Viktor But, an arms dealer who was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and extradited to the United States.
But was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted of conspiring to kill American citizens and selling weapons to the Colombian FARC guerrillas.