Paul Whelan Makes Contact With Family After Going Silent

December 2, 2022

The brother of American Paul Whelan, who’s been imprisoned in Russia since 2018, called his family on Friday after having gone more than a week with no contact, raising concern among his family and the U.S. government.

David Whelan said his brother Paul had been moved to a prison hospital but “did not say why he was there.” However, David said Paul did say he would call again later, adding that his parents believe he will be returned to his normal penal colony later in the day.

On Wednesday, National Security spokesman John Kirby had said the White House was “deeply concerned” after the Whelan family had not heard from Paul since November 23, especially since he regularly called during holidays, and they’d hear nothing from him on Thanksgiving, nor on his father’s birthday.

David Whelan said the Friday call “at least acts as ‘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.”

Paul Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence in a penal colony in the Russian region of Mordovia. He was arrested in 2018 and accused of spying. David said Paul was merely in Moscow for a friend’s wedding and was given a USB drive

The U.S. government has been negotiating Paul’s release along with jailed WNBA star Brittney Griner, who is serving a nine-year sentence in a Russian penal colony following an August arrest for possessing vape canisters that contained 0.702 grams of cannabis oil. 

The White House has offered to swap the pair for convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, but earlier this week a senior U.S. diplomat in Moscow said, “the Russian Federation has not provided a serious response” to that proposal or to “proposed alternatives.” 

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