In a significant diplomatic move amid heightened U.S. tensions with Russia, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy visited American Paul Whelan in a prison colony 220 miles east of Moscow.
According to Military Times, Whelan, a 53-year-old U.S. Marine veteran and corporate security director, is currently serving a 16-year sentence on espionage charges — a conviction that has been strongly disputed by both Whelan himself and the U.S. government.
The ambassador’s visit to Whelan comes as analysts speculate that Moscow may be leveraging jailed Americans as strategic pawns in the midst of ongoing political disagreements between the two nations.
“We believe Paul continues to show tremendous courage in the face of his wrongful detention. Ambassador Tracy reiterated to him that President Biden and Secretary (of State Antony) Blinken are committed to bringing him home,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.
Miller noted that the assurance from the U.S. ambassador aligns with a previous phone call from Secretary Blinken to Whelan about a month ago, where he conveyed a similar message of unwavering support.
Whelan was arrested in Moscow in 2018 and was convicted in 2020. According to Military Times, the Biden administration had aimed to negotiate his release during prisoner exchange talks that led to the release of American basketball star Brittney Griner from Russian imprisonment in December of last year.
Whelan’s case, however, remains unresolved, highlighting the geopolitical complexities involved in relations between the United States and Russia.
In addition to Whelan’s case, Evan Gershkovich, an American Wall Street Journal reporter, is also being held prisoner in Russia. Arrested on March 29, Gershkovich is accused of attempting to obtain classified information.
According to Military Times, Gershkovich is the first U.S. reporter since the Cold War to be detained in Russia on espionage charges, which both his family and The Wall Street Journal have denied.
This news article was partially created with the assistance of artificial intelligence and edited and fact-checked by a human editor.