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Russia says alleged US spy, Marine vet, ‘faking’ illness

Then-Staff Sgt. Paul N. Whelan, adjutant, Marine Air Control Group 38 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), pictured before the Kremlin in 2007. (Cpl. James B. Hoke/U.S. Marine Corps)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has rejected a Russian claim that a former U.S. Marine it is holding on spying charges is feigning illness and lying about his ill treatment in custody to draw attention to his case.

Referring to a December 3 Russian Foreign Ministry statement that made the allegation, Rebecca Ross, the spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, said it was “a new edition of pulp fiction” and “factually incorrect.”

Ross said U.S. national Paul Whelan’s health is actually “deteriorating” while calling for an independent medical examination to “clear up” the state of his health, according to a series of tweets she published the same day.

Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian, and Irish passports, was accused of espionage after agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service detained him in a Moscow hotel room in December last year.

Whelan, who is being held in pretrial detention, denies Moscow’s allegations and says accusations against him are politically motivated.

At court hearings, Whelan accused prison guards of ill treatment during his incarceration and said that his complaints are systematically ignored.

In August, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow demanded immediate access to Whelan after his lawyer said he was suffering from a groin hernia that prison authorities were aggravating.

However, the Russian Foreign Ministry on December 3 said Whelan’s allegations of ill treatment had not checked out and that diplomats were being granted regular access to him in custody.

“They [the diplomats] know perfectly well that the public statements by the accused about certain abuses and even threats [made to his] life in pretrial detention are nothing more than the defense’s provocatory line to help artificially create noise around his person,” the ministry said in a statement.

It said the detention facility’s doctors as well as a special clinic had not found Whelan to have any serious ailment.

“So there is no threat to Whelan’s health, and the pretending which he is periodically resorting to is apparently part of the training for U.S. intelligence officers,” the ministry said.

Ross pointed out that Whelan hasn’t been able to make one phone call since his detention and affirmed he “is not a spy,” accusing the Russian Foreign Ministry of “distorting the facts.”

“Enough is enough. Let Paul go home,” she tweeted.