Paul Whelan’s Sister to Attend Russian-Chaired U.N. Security Council Meeting

April 24, 2023

Elizabeth Whelan, sister of American Paul Whelan who’s imprisoned in Russia, plans to attend a United Nations Security Council meeting that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is set to chair on Monday.

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, age 53, was arrested in 2018 and is serving 16 years in a Russian penal colony on what his family says are fabricated charges of spying.

Elizabeth Whelan is hoping to spotlight the human cost of Russia’s wrongful detention and how it’s one of many ways Russia violates international norms, a U.S. official told CNN.

This month—just over a year into its war in Ukraine—Russia holds the presidency of the Security Council, whose permanent members also include the U.S., China, France, and the UK. It is composed of 15 members altogether, the other ten of whom are transitional year-to-year. More than 50 UN member nations have never been on the Security Council.  

Lavrov arrives to address the Security Council less than a month after 31-year-old American journalist Evan Gershkovich, who reports for the Wall Street Journal, was arrested on March 29. Russia’s FSB security services said he “was collecting classified information about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military industrial complex.” He has since been charged in Russia with espionage, a punishment that could potentially mean up to 20 years behind bars in Russia.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he spoke with Lavrov on April 2 about Gershkovich’s imprisonment. 

On April 11, the State Department officially designated Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained.” Doing so shifts supervision of that person’s case to a specialized State Department section, called the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. That department is focused on negotiating for the release of captives.

Paul Whelan had also been designated wrongfully detained within days of his arrest in 2018.

In March, during a face-to-face encounter with Lavrov, Blinken urged the Foreign Minister to accept a proposal for Whelan’s release.

The State Department had unsuccessfully attempted to secure Whelan’s freedom in December when it did secure the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner who was imprisoned on drug possession charges (she had less than one ounce of  cannabis oil in a vape cannister). However, Russia refused to accept adding Whelan to a prisoner swap  for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

“As Russia takes on the presidency of the Security Council, we will use every opportunity to push back on their using their perch in the chair to spread disinformation, and to use their chair to push support of their efforts,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Amabassador to the UN. She also spoke with her Russian counterpart earlier this month to demand Gershkovich’s release.

Elizabeth Whelan has urged the Biden Administration to do more to release her brother. 

“Paul Whelan deserves better than he is getting for results. He has the White House attention to his case and now he needs the White House to get the job done,” she said in a video posted to Facebook earlier this month.

PHOTO: UN Security Council on UN HQ in NYC

Source: Per Krohg

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