Former US Marine Paul Whelan has been detained in Russia since December 2018.
He is one of several Americans still being held in Russian prisons when Trevor Reed was released on April 27, 2022.
Who is Paul Whelan?
Paul Whelan is a former Marine and a citizen of the US, Canada, UK and Ireland.
He was raised in Novi, Michigan but was born in Canada to British parents who relocated his family to the United States just a few years after his birth.
In 1994, Whelan joined the US Marine Corps and served twice in the Iraq War in 2004 and 2006.
He made it to the rank of staff sergeant but was fired in 2008 for theft, the BBC reported in 2020.
After his release, Whelan worked for Kelly Services and was promoted to Senior Manager, Global Security and Investigations in 2010.
In 2016 he moved to BorgWarner, a US-based automotive supplier.
Why did Paul Whelan go to Russia?
Prior to his arrest, Whelan had visited Russia, visiting Moscow for the first time in 2006.
A friend and fellow Marine reportedly invited Whelan to attend his wedding due to Whelan’s frequent visits to Russia.
His brother, David Whelan, told the BBC in 2020 that Whelan was a good friend and when he was invited to the wedding he didn’t question it and left.
“Paul is a very generous person and a very loyal friend, and in that role a friend had asked him to come to Russia and help with the wedding party,” said David Whelan.
“Based on his experience of having already been to the Kremlin and already walking around Red Square and navigating the subway, his friend felt that Paul could help a group of Americans who otherwise had never been to would have been Moscow.”
Why is Paul Whelan being held in Russia?
Whelan was in his hotel room on December 28, 2018 when he was arrested for alleged espionage.
Russian authorities said Whelan had confidential documents in his room and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
“It’s a bit tragic,” David Whelan said in an interview with NPR. “On the night of the wedding, before the wedding had even started, he was captured by the security services from a friend he had in Russia.
“And he’s gone. And that’s when we first heard about it.”
Whelan has since claimed his arrest was a political stunt, according to ABC News, saying, “The guards call me ‘tourist.'”
He spent 18 months in detention while awaiting trial and said when he was first arrested he didn’t believe anything like this had happened.
“I wasn’t sure if it was real. I didn’t know if friends of mine would have set up a gag or not,” Whelan told ABC News from a detention center in central Russia.
“It was obviously getting pretty real,” he added.
Meanwhile, David Whelan has said the allegations against his brother are nonsense.
He told the BBC: “I can’t imagine how anyone with a law enforcement background who is also a former US Marine and now works in corporate security and is also aware of the risks of travel would have broken any law only the espionage law.”
Will Paul Whelan be released?
President Joe Biden released Konstantin Yaroshenko, arrested in 2010 on drug smuggling charges, in exchange for Trevor Reed, another former Marine.
Although Whelan and his family were happy to hear that Reed was being sent back to the US, they questioned why he is still being held in Russia.
“Why was I left behind?” Whelan said in a statement to his parents and shared with CNN.
While I’m glad Trevor is home with his family, I’ve been held for 40 months on a fictional espionage charge.
“The world knows these charges were fabricated. Why wasn’t more done to secure my release?”
Biden has said his administration will work to secure Whelan’s release, but David Whelan said he was not optimistic.
“I’m glad President Biden reiterated his vow to bring Paul home this morning. Because otherwise, it feels like his promise to Paul last summer in Geneva feels hollow today,” he told CNN.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on April 27, “We will continue to advocate the immediate and unconditional release of Paul Whelan at every opportunity, and the use of wrongful detention as leverage poses a threat to the safety of all travelers.” represents , working and living abroad.”
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https://www.the-sun.com/news/5229598/paul-whelan-why-is-he-in-russia/ Who is Paul Whelan and why is he in Russia?