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US Marine veteran Whelan says in Russian courtroom he was set up

Then-Staff Sgt. Paul N. Whelan, adjutant, Marine Air Control Group 38 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), pictured before the Kremlin in 2007. (Cpl. James B. Hoke/U.S. Marine Corps)
September 18, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Paul Whelan, whom Russia accuses of espionage, has said a friend framed him and that he isn’t a spy, according to a courtroom interview he gave to the BBC in Moscow on September 17.

A former U.S. Marine, Whelan, 48, said an officer of Russia’s Federal Security Service with whom he had been friends for 10 years put a flash drive into his pocket while visiting his hotel room.

Whelan then was arrested and caught “red-handed” with state secrets, Russian prosecutors allege.

He said he had “no idea” what was on the drive.

“I never looked at it. I didn’t know I had it until I was arrested. This is 100 percent a provocation, and a really bad one,” Whelan told the BBC.

The investigation into Whelan’s case has ended and his lawyers are currently studying the evidence.

His arrest came on December 28 in Moscow, just six days after he arrived in Russia to attend a wedding. He had plans to also visit St. Petersburg before returning to the United States on January 6.

His brother said Whelan had been visiting Russia since 2007.