White House ‘deeply concerned’ about Paul Whelan because family isn’t hearing from him

Paul Whelan Russia
Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, who was arrested in Moscow at the end of last year, attends a hearing in a court in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. (Dmitry Serebryakov/AP)

White House ‘deeply concerned’ about Paul Whelan because family isn’t hearing from him

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The Biden administration is “deeply concerned” about Paul Whelan, an American considered to be wrongfully detained by the Russian government, because he hasn’t communicated with his family as scheduled.

Paul Whelan’s brother, David, told reporters this week that the labor colony where Paul Whelan is serving his sentence said he was transferred to the prison hospital on Nov. 18, though he didn’t mention it to his parents when he last spoke to them on Nov. 23. Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence on espionage charges, told his family to “alert the U.S. Embassy” if he “doesn’t call home for more than three days,” and so they reached out to the consular staff, who have also not heard from him.

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“It’s incredibly unusual for Paul to miss trying to call home on a holiday like Thanksgiving,” David wrote. “We’ve been worried for 1,431 days if I’m frank, but days when he is out of contact for a stretch of time we worry with specificity.”

The White House is also trying to understand his whereabouts.

“We have been trying to get more information about Mr. Whelan’s condition and his whereabouts. And as we speak this morning, regrettably, we do not have an update specifically about where he is or what condition he’s in,” White House national security council coordinator John Kirby told reporters in a Wednesday briefing. “That deeply concerns us, and we certainly share the anxiety and the concern of the land and family. We are deeply concerned about the lack of information and the lack of contact from Paul, and we’re working on it as hard as we can through the diplomatic channels.”

The U.S. Embassy is working “very, very hard to try to get more granularity in exactly what’s going on with Mr. Whelan,” he added. “In the meantime, we’re going to continue as we have to work for his release, as well as Brittney Griner’s release.”

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Elizabeth Rood, the U.S. charge d’affaires in Moscow, told Russian state media RIA earlier this week that the U.S. has already “submitted a serious proposal for consideration,” which they “finalized,” and also “offered alternatives,” but still, “the Russian Federation has not provided a serious response to those proposals.”

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