Investigators have accused a British citizen held on espionage expenses in Russia of receiving a USB stick that contained state secrets and techniques, his lawyer has mentioned. 

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Paul Whelan, 48, believed the USB stick had images and different details about a church he had visited, lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov mentioned. FSB safety brokers swooped in and seized him earlier than he might see what was on the flash drive, he added.

Russian media beforehand claimed he was grabbed on the Metropole Lodge close to the Kremlin whereas receiving a USB keep on with an inventory of staff of a state company.

Within the first public look since he was detained on December 28, Moscow metropolis courtroom refused an attraction to grant bail to Mr Whelan, leaving him pre-trial confinement in Lefortovo jail till no less than the tip of February. He faces 10 to 20 years in jail.

Mr Whelan, head of safety for a Michigan auto components firm who holds American, British, Canadian and Irish passports, appeared calm and well-fed. Wearing a blue shirt, darkish trousers and rimless eyeglasses, the previous Marine and police officer declined to reply shouted questions, as an alternative whispering along with his attorneys by a gap within the thick glass defendant’s cage. 

A supply instructed The Telegraph final week that Mr Whelan is accused of gathering details about “labeled navy buildings”.

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Through the listening to, which was closed till the choose returned with a choice, Mr Whelan “refuted intimately the prosecution’s arguments,” Mr Zherebenkov mentioned. 

“He did not assume these had been state secrets and techniques, as he did certainly say, ‘I am a good friend of Russia,’” the lawyer mentioned. “He has lots of acquaintances right here. For him all these conferences, all these contacts had been bizarre and related with the tradition of the nation, nothing extra.”

The defence had supplied a bond of as much as 30 million roubles (£350,000) for his launch.

Lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov speaks to Mr Whelan within the defendant’s cage Credit score: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Russian police have usually been accused of faking proof, and in September, two officers in Izhevsk got jail sentences for planting a pistol and private objects from a supposed sufferer on an harmless man.

Mr Whelan was detained by the highly effective FSB, nonetheless, in a way more high-profile bust.

Former CIA officers have mentioned the US would not ship an agent to Russia with out diplomatic cowl.

Though Mr Whelan “feels good,” he has an sickness that requires medical consideration, and Mr Zherebenkov mentioned he had agreed with investigators to have a health care provider go to him with an interpreter, as he does not communicate good Russian. He’s reportedly affected by a hernia in addition to a shoulder downside. 

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Jail screens have mentioned his cell is healthier than regular, with good heating, a tv and a fridge.

Vladimir Putin’s spokesman denied that Mr Whelan had been detained as a “pawn in a diplomatic recreation,” however some together with US officers have disputed this. There was hypothesis Moscow might search to swap him for a Russian prisoner in the US.

Mr Whelan’s twin brother beforehand instructed The Telegraph that the household had doubts in regards to the appointment of Mr Zherebenkov to symbolize him. Whereas the lawyer has efficiently defended well-known purchasers like former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, he’s recognized to have shut relationships with state investigators after working as one himself for twenty years. 

Mr Zherebenkov speaks outdoors Moscow metropolis courtroom on Tuesday Credit score: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Mr Whelan got here to Russia in December for a good friend’s wedding ceremony and confirmed different visitors across the Kremlin grounds, kinfolk have mentioned. Pals contacted the embassy when he failed to seem on the wedding ceremony.

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Not less than 20 mates on his web page on a Russian social community had accomplished navy training or service, whereas others labored in IT. His twin brother beforehand instructed The Telegraph that Mr Whelan had all the time loved assembly overseas navy and legislation enforcement personnel throughout his in depth travels. 

Mr Whelan first visited Russia whereas on depart after serving in Iraq in 2007, a visit he described afterward as an opportunity to “journey all through the world wherever we wish to go and expertise the range of tradition”.

He got here to Russia on a number of different events and, in accordance with his lawyer, had in Could visited Sergiyev Posad, a metropolis close to Moscow well-known for its historic monastery complicated. He has additionally reportedly been to the imperial capital of St Petersburg in addition to Volgograd, which is thought for its Second World Struggle historical past. 

Mr Whelan joined the US Marine Corps reserves in 1994 however was court-martialled over larceny allegations and discharged for dangerous conduct in 2008. 

He was employed on the momentary staffing agency Kelly Providers, which operates in international locations together with Russia, as senior supervisor of world safety and investigations. Most lately he was employed at auto components provider BorgWarner, which has mentioned he wasn’t in Russia for work. 

He additionally did stints in legislation enforcement and at one level began a web based gun-selling enterprise.

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