Russia Continues to Hold Paul Whelan Prisoner


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Paul Whelan remains in custody in Russia at an old World War II prison camp under charges of espionage. Persistent in their goal to bring Whelan back, the United States government hopes to arrange a prisoner swap with Russia successfully, but continues to fail to achieve that goal. For now, Whelan will stay in an old Russian Gulag until US officials find a way to bring him home.

Evan Fernandez, Reporter

Paul Whelan, a marine and citizen of several countries, lingers in Russia as a prisoner. After the Russians convicted and detained Whelan in his hotel in 2018 for espionage charges, Whelan remained in Russia. The marine received a  sentence of 16 years in a trial the United States officials deemed biased and unfair. The Russian government transported Whelan to an old World War II gulag named Lefortovo Prison, where he became confined to a room with 50 to 60 other prisoners throughout the Covid-19 crisis

“I think it’s terrible that Russia is using a human being as a political pawn, but I guess that’s just part of politics. We need to get [Whelan] home without starting an issue with Russia, which I believe is the challenge the government is facing,” sophomore Zerrar Patel said.

The charge of espionage comes from what Whelan reports as a friend bringing him a flash drive that he thought contained holiday photos from a wedding he attended in Moscow, but in reality, the drive contained Russian border guard names to gain information on the protection at the Russian border. Moscow security later ambushed Whelan in his hotel room, and the Russian security guards detained him in his hotel room.

Russia also detained Whelan’s brother, David Whelan, who currently provides news and information about his brother’s condition in Russia to his family. The United States continues to attempt to bring Whelan back into prisoner trade talks but with little luck. Although opportunities to bring him back arose, the US chose to bring back American Trevor Reed instead of Whelan.

“[Whelan’s] confinement in Moscow is unfair. Russia made the trial totally unfair and absurd. Russia just wanted to keep him as a trophy from the US, and even he [Whelan]knows it from when he made the Sham trial poster,” sophomore Ryan Teho said.

The Biden administration hopes to bring Whelan back with the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star Brittney Griner in a prisoner exchange where the United States releases a well-known Russian arms dealer. Hints of Russia using Whelan as a political and strategic pawn for a spy swap continue to circulate through Moscow.