Paul Whelan, wrongfully detained in Russia, says he thinks “the wheels are turning” toward release

Washington — Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen who’s wrongfully detained in Russia, is frightened he may very well be left behind once more, however stated he’s assured “the wheels are turning” toward his release. 

“I remain positive and confident on a daily basis that the wheels are turning. I just wish they would turn a little bit more quickly,” Whelan told CNN in a cellphone interview on Sunday. 

Whelan is imprisoned in Mordovia and serving a 16-year sentence on espionage prices, which the U.S. denies. He’s been detained in Russia since December 2018 and has watched because the U.S. made two prisoner swaps for the release {of professional} basketball star Brittney Griner and Marine veteran Trevor Reed, who had been each wrongfully detained in Russia after Whelan’s arrest.

Russia has since detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who the U.S. has decided can be wrongfully detained, on espionage prices. 

The Whelan household has expressed concern that the White House and State Department are diverting assets away from his case, and concern that he may very well be left behind once more because the U.S. seeks the release of Gershkovich. 

“That’s an extreme worry for me and my family,” Whelan advised CNN. 

But Whelan stated he now has extra confidence in the efforts to get him residence than he did months in the past. 

“I have been told that I won’t be left behind, and I have been told that although Evan’s case is a priority, mine is also a priority, and people are cognizant of the fact that this is having an extremely negative impact on me and my family,” Whelan stated. “And I’m told that the government is working tirelessly to get me out of here and to get me home so they can then focus effort on Evan and his case.” 

“I feel that my life shouldn’t be considered less valuable or important than others who have been previously traded,” he added. “And I think there are people in D.C. that feel the same way, and they’re moving towards a compromise and resolution to this as quickly as they can.” 

Whelan’s appeared extra optimistic in his feedback to CNN than when his household shared an replace on his well-being after Gershkovich was detained. His household stated in April that Whelan’s “resilience is shaken” and he “seems rattled like never before” as he feared a deal can be made for Gershkovich’s release that didn’t embrace him.  

He partly attributed his renewed confidence to  President Biden’s speech on the White House Correspondents’ Dinner final month, in which Mr. Biden stated he was working to safe the release of wrongfully detained Americans, together with Whelan. He stated he was additionally capable of watch his sister, Elizabeth, attend the United Nations Security Council assembly chaired Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov final month. 

“The public displays and events such as the press corps dinner and the UN visit demonstrate to not just me, privately, but to the world that our leaders are impacted by this, and they do want me back, and they are working to try to get me home,” Whelan stated. 

After the U.S. ambassador to Russia recently visited Whelan in prison, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow stated his release “remains an absolute priority” and the U.S. authorities “will continue to engage Russian authorities on his case.” 

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