"We believe that the accusations seen in the Western media on 'drawing out' the process that began on March 30 are absurd and unsubstantiated. It is well known that Paul Whelan drew out for six months the process of familiarizing himself with the court materials, was reading them without a hurry, from September last year to March this year. Nevertheless, despite difficult epidemiological conditions caused by the coronavirus infection, the process took place within the expected timeframe, in strict correspondence with the Russian laws and all required norms and procedures," the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said it disagreed that Whelan's sentence was unfair or too strict.
"As for statements about the sentence being unfair or too severe, it must be stressed that in the United States and in other Western countries, the sentence for similar offences may amount to decades in prison, possibly even life, and without a right to pardon," the ministry said.
Former US Marine, Paul Whelan, who also holds the citizenship of the UK, Canada and Ireland, was arrested in Russia in 2018 on espionage charges. He denied the charges, insisting that he came to Russia to attend his friend's wedding.