Imprisoned American Paul Whelan in Russian prison hospital, says family
The family of Paul Whelan said the unjustly detained American has been transferred to a Russian prison hospital, confirming the former U.S. Marine is alive but saying they have little information about his health.
David Whelan, Paul Whelan’s brother, reportedly released a statement saying the family was able to hold a phone call with Whelan after a week without contact.
“So the call at least acts as a ‘proof of life’, even if nothing else has been explained: when Paul went there, why, why the calls stopped, why the U.S. Embassy had to seek information about his whereabouts and the Russian authorities refused to respond, etc,” David Whelan said in a statement reported by The Associated Press.
A State Department spokesperson told The Hill that consular officers held a phone call with Whelan on Friday, and that “Paul stated he is feeling well.” The spokesperson said they were unable to share more details due to privacy considerations.
The Biden administration has said they’re committed to working to secure the release of Whelan, who has spent four years in prison on an espionage conviction, charges he denies. The State Department has determined him to be unjustly detained.
National security spokesperson John Kirby said on Monday that the administration has had conversations with Russian officials about releasing Whelan, as well as Brittney Griner, the WNBA star arrested in February before Russian launched its invasion in Ukraine. The U.S. says Griner is also being unjustly detained.
“I can assure you that those conversations are ongoing, and we want them both home as fast as possible, and this administration is going to stay committed to that task,” Kirby said.
The U.S. has reportedly offered to exchange convicted Russian arms-dealer Viktor Bout, the so-called merchant of death, Steve Zissou, Bout’s lawyer, said his client has served almost 15 years of a 25-year sentence.
CIA Director Bill Burns met with his Russian counterpart in Ankara, Turkey, last month for discussions that reportedly included the release of the detained Americans.
— Updated at 2:54 p.m.