US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, announced on Wednesday that Paul Whelan, a former member of the US Marine Corps, has been “unjustly” imprisoned for five years on charges of espionage in Russia, stressing that he will do everything to achieve his release.
“December 28 marks five years since the unjust detention of American citizen Paul Whelan by the Russian authorities,” Blinken said in a statement.
The Foreign Minister stressed that “not a single day goes by that the American government does not make intensive efforts to return him to the country.”
Former Marine Corps petty officer Paul Whelan (53 years old) is serving a 16-year prison sentence, in a case that he and Washington consider fabricated.
In an interview broadcast by the BBC on December 20, Paul Whelan, who is being held in a detention center in Mordovia in central Russia, said that the United States had “abandoned” him and accused it of “treason” for failing to return him to his homeland.
He added that he spends his days sewing clothes and hats in the prison factory, a facility where he says the temperature is minus 15 degrees Celsius and where he was recently attacked by another prisoner.
“After a secret trial in closed sessions, Paul spent years working in Russian penal camps. Last year alone, he was attacked by other prisoners and harassed by Russian state media,” Blinken said.
The United States confirms that Russia rejected all offers it made to release Whelan, as well as the American journalist at the Wall Street Journal, Evan Gershkovitch.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in mid-December that he “hopes” to reach a “mutually acceptable” agreement on the issue.
On December 21, the White House announced that it was preparing a new proposal for Russia.
The two countries accuse each other of detaining their citizens for political purposes, and several prisoners have been exchanged in recent years.
In particular, the United States achieved the release of Britney Greiner, the American basketball star detained in Russia, at the end of 2022, in exchange for the release of Viktor Bout, the famous Russian arms dealer.