American imprisoned in Russia calls for Biden to resolve 'hostage diplomacy situation' in Putin meeting

American imprisoned in Russia calls for Biden to resolve 'hostage diplomacy situation' in Putin meeting
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An American national imprisoned in Russia called on President BidenJoe BidenFirst lady leaves Walter Reed after foot procedure Biden backs effort to include immigration in budget package MyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News MORE to “aggressively discuss and resolve" the matter of U.S. citizens being detained for political reasons when he meets with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinDemocrats find a tax Republicans can support Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on Biden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections MORE this month.

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who was arrested on charges of spying in 2018 and is serving a 16-year prison term at a labor camp, told CNN that "decisive action is needed immediately" in order to halt the "abduction" of U.S. citizens. Whelan has denied the charges against him.

"This is not an issue of Russia against me; it's an issue of Russia against the United States, and the United States needs to answer this hostage diplomacy situation and resolve it as quickly as possible," Whelan told CNN


Whelan is a citizen of four countries: Canada through birth; the United States through naturalization; and Britain and Ireland through his heritage.

He told CNN that he had "a positive feeling" about the upcoming summit between Biden and Putin calling it "a good step in the right direction."

"I know that President Biden and [Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenBlinken urges Tunisian president to return country to 'democratic path as quickly as possible' Blinken calls US-India relationship 'vital' during official visit US sanctioning Syrian officials, groups over human rights abuses MORE] are working towards my release and return home," Whelan said.

"It's pretty simple. There was no crime. There was no evidence. The secret trial was a sham," he added. "This was done purely for political motive."

The BBC notes that it was speculated at the time of his arrest that Whelan had been detained in order to be exchanged for Russian guns rights activist Maria ButinaMaria ButinaAmerican imprisoned in Russia calls for Biden to resolve 'hostage diplomacy situation' in Putin meeting Fake German heiress Anna Sorokin taken into custody, faces deportation US-convicted Russian operative Maria Butina visits Navalny in jail MORE who had been imprisoned in the U.S. in December 2018. She was later deported back to Russia in 2019.


At the labor camp where he is imprisoned, Whelan works at a clothing factory which he described to CNN as a "sweatshop."

"We get up at 6. We have 10 minutes of exercises. We have breakfast for about 20 minutes, and then we work all day, have lunch for maybe 20 minutes, work all afternoon and then have part of the evening to ourselves after our formation and in that time we wash clothes, write letters, read books, try to make phone calls, things of that nature," he said.

"The guards often stop us from going to the medical unit, and then at the medical unit it's so crowded you're often turned away. And I think that's probably one of the biggest challenges right now, is just getting decent medical care," Whelan added.