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American Spy Suspect Paul Whelan Had Russian ‘State Secrets’ on USB Stick

Russian court refuses application for bail for Paul Whelan charged with espionageRussian court refuses application for bail for Paul Whelan charged with espionage
Paul Whelan, 48, appears at the Moscow City Court following his arrest on charges of spying against Russia.Sergei Savostyanov/TASS

Paul Whelan, the retired U.S. marine detained in Russia on spying charges, doesn’t seem likely to gain freedom anytime soon.

Whelan had a closed hearing at Moscow City Court on Tuesday, at which the court decided to deny his bail application.

According to Whelan’s Russian lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, the American was in possession of sensitive Russian information at the time of his arrest last month. “I can confirm that at the time of his detention, Whelan had some documents containing state secrets, but I cannot go into details,” Zherebenkov told the TASS news agency.

The lawyer said Whelan had been given a USB stick that he thought contained photographs of churches, adding that Whelan did not have time to check the flash drive’s contents before he was arrested.

Citing anonymous sources, the Rosbalt news agency has previously reported that the drive contained a list of employees at a classified state security agency.

Whelan’s family has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence, stressing that he was in Moscow for a wedding. Whelan, who was dishonorably discharged from the Marines over a decade ago, is these days the global security director at Michigan auto-parts supplier BorgWarner.

Many have suggested that the Russians seized Whelan so they would have someone to exchange for Maria Butina, the Russian spy who infiltrated the NRA in order to influence American politics. The Kremlin has denied this claim.