Russian state media has released a video of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, wrongfully detained in a Russian penal colony.
Whelan was arrested in 2018 and is serving a 16-year sentence on what his family and the U.S. government say are fabricated charges of spying. His family says he was merely in Moscow for a friend’s wedding and was given a USB drive.
The video of Whelan was released by the Kremlin-controlled media outlet RT (Russia Today). The footage is mostly without audio, but Whelan can be heard speaking briefly to a reporter, saying, “So you understand when I say that I can’t do an interview, which means I can’t answer any questions.”
Whelan’s brother, David Whelan, said upon viewing the video, “I wish I could see Paul under better circumstances. But it was good to see him again and to see the fight remains in his eyes. It is good to know Paul remains unbowed.”
The U.S. State Department has designated Whelan as “wrongfully detained,” which shifts supervision of that person’s case to the specialized Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. That department is focused on negotiating for the release of captives.
The Biden Administration had hoped to broker Whelan’s release in December, along with that of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was wrongfully detained in a Russian penal colony when, in August 2022, she was convicted of possessing vape canisters that contained 0.702 grams of cannabis oil in her luggage at a Moscow airport. However, Russia refused to allow the release of both Americans in exchange for that of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Earlier this month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Whelan, telling him to “keep the faith and we’re doing everything we can to bring you home as soon as possible.”