Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan seen in Russian penal colony
Rarely seen former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan appeared Monday on video shot inside a Russian penal colony by the country’s state-run media.
The 53-year-old civilian security worker was arrested on espionage charges at the end of 2018 and sentenced to a 16-year imprisonment in 2020. He maintains his innocence.
Video aired by Russian outlet RT shows Whelan wearing a black cap and uniform while operating a sewing machine and walking through what appears to be a penitentiary in Mordovia, the institution to which he was sentenced, roughly 250 miles west of Moscow.
“Today was the first time I’ve seen what he really looks like since June 2020,” his brother David Whelan told Reuters via email.
According to RT, Whelan agreed to speak with its reporter from prison. But when a correspondent from the state-run station approached him, Whelan said, “I can’t do an interview.”
RT’s reporter states that “Paul was caught in the act of passing classified information” as a matter of fact.
The network also uses clips from Fox News to criticize the Biden administration for working out a deal to free WNBA star Brittney Griner from a Russian prison in December, while being unable to convince Russia to release Whelan. The Russians have declined to engage in meaningful discussions to give up Whelan, according to CNN sources.
Griner was detained for 10 months after airport customs officials found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage. She was released in an exchange that freed Russian arms dealer Viktor “The Merchant of Death” Bout.
Wall Street Journal reporter and American citizen Evan Gershkovich was arrested for allegedly spying in February and could spend 20 years in prison on charges he and the Journal deny.
The White House also maintains Gershkovich’s innocence. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed to bring Gershkovich home “as soon as possible” during a phone call with the imprisoned journalist last week, according to CNN.