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MOSCOW: A Russian court on Thursday sentenced former US marine Trevor Reed to nine years in prison for assaulting police officers while drunk. His conviction follows the high-profile trial of another former US marine, Paul Whelan, last month on espionage charges in a case that has fuelled speculation of a prisoner exchange with the United States.

The US ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, condemned the sentencing of 29-year-old Reed as "theatre of the absurd."

Reed, a student and former marine from Texas, allegedly attacked police after attending a party in Moscow last year. While being driven to a police station, he purportedly grabbed the arm of a police officer, causing the car they were in to swerve, and elbowed another officer in the abdomen.

Reed appeared wearing a facemask in a cage for defendants in a courtroom in the Russian capital as the judge read out the guilty verdict, saying the police officers had suffered "mental and physical harm".

The court ruled that Reed's "state of intoxication" had played a decisive role in the incident and sentenced him to nine years in a penal colony, said an AFP reporter in the courtroom. Reed denounced the verdict as "completely political" and vowed to appeal to the US government for political support.

Reed's girlfriend Alina Tsybulnik burst into tears after the judge read out the verdict and shouted "Are you serious?" before police carried her out of the courtroom. "This is the image of Russia," she shouted.

Sullivan, the US ambassador to Russia, slammed Reed's trial. "Today, US citizen Trevor Reed was convicted and sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison based on evidence so ridiculous that even the judge laughed in court," Sullivan was quoted by the embassy as saying. "This was theatre of the absurd," he said on Twitter. Sullivan also met with Reed's father, Joey Reed.

Reed has been held in a Moscow prison in pre-trial detention since August 2019. He pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying he remembers nothing of the incident.