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Paul Whelan, American detained in Russia, reportedly moved to prison hospital and unable to call home
American detained in Russia: Paul Whelan, an American who was wrongfully detained in Russia, has been moved to a prison hospital, according to his brother. He hasn’t been able to talk to his family for a week.
The lack of communication has raised serious concerns for the family, said David Whelan, who questioned the penal colony’s claim that his brother was transferred to the hospital. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday the United States is “working every day to make sure that we have contact with him, that we understand what the exact situation is.”
Paul is serving a 16-year prison sentence in a remote penal colony. He has told his family “many times” to contact the US Embassy “if he doesn’t call home for more than 3 days,” David wrote in an email on Monday. “So our parents did that, and they heard back that the consular staff hadn’t heard from Paul either,” David said, adding that Paul has a regular call with the US Embassy on Thursday, which he missed last week.
He said, “It’s very unusual for Paul to miss calling home on a holiday like Thanksgiving.” “If I’m being honest, we’ve been worried for 1,431 days, but we worry more when he hasn’t talked to us for a long time.” David told CNN on Wednesday that Paul used to call their parents every day, and that “most of the time when he doesn’t call, it’s because he’s talking to an Embassy.”
David said, “If Paul doesn’t call today, which seems likely since he usually calls by 2 p.m. Eastern, he’ll have missed both Thanksgiving and our dad’s birthday, which is pretty rare.” “He used to ask the US consular staff to remind me, his sister Elizabeth, and our other brother to remember Mom and Dad’s birthdays. If he couldn’t call, it would be out of character for him not to,” she said. He knows them like the back of his hand.”
Wednesday afternoon, David said that Paul had not called. In an email sent on Tuesday, David said that staff at the prison colony told him that his brother was moved to the prison hospital on November 18. “Why, if this is true?” David asked. “Paul didn’t say he was sick enough to need to go to the hospital, so has there been an emergency?” The staff at the Embassy said that he looked healthy and well.
He also said that his parents had talked to Paul “a few times” after he was said to have been moved, “but never brought it up.” “If Paul is in the prison hospital, why is he not allowed to make phone calls that every other prisoner is allowed to make?” Is he unable to make telephone calls? “Or is he still at IK-17 but in solitary and the prison is concealing that fact,” David added?
“Unfortunately, we must take what the prison says at face value because we have no way of communicating with them or validating what they claim,” he explained. According to CNN, the State Department is “aware of reports that Paul Whelan was recently moved to a prison hospital and was unable to call home over the holiday.” The spokesperson said, “The Embassy continues to press for timely updates on Paul Whelan’s location and condition.”
If Paul was transferred to a prison hospital on November 18, it was only a few days after US and Irish officials had been able to visit him at the penal colony. It would also be his second transfer to a prison hospital in nearly two months, having been moved there for an unknown reason in mid-September.
The Biden administration has worked to secure Paul’s release as well as the release of another American wrongfully detained in Russia, US women’s basketball star Brittney Griner. Griner, who received a nine-year prison sentence in early August, was recently transferred to a different penal colony in the same region as Paul Whelan.
In June, the US made what administration officials called a “significant proposal” to free the detained Americans, which included a prisoner swap for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. According to a source familiar with the negotiations, the US “didn’t simply make an offer; we also tried to articulate other options, other categories of options, in order to create the space for the haggling that we want to have.”
“Because haggling means you’re getting closer. And instead, there has been no change or softening of a response that is simply a demand for something we simply cannot provide because it is beyond our control,” the source stated. Although a top Russian official recently expressed optimism about reaching an agreement, US officials have warned that those words have not been matched by actions.
“The Russian government’s failure to seriously negotiate on these issues through the established channels, or any other channel for that matter, contradicts its public statements,” State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said in mid-November.
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