May 18, 2024

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Paul Whelan tells CNN he feels “a little concerned” that the arrest of a soldier in Russia could complicate his case

Paul Whelan tells CNN he feels “a little concerned” that the arrest of a soldier in Russia could complicate his case

Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images

Paul Whelan, a former US Marine accused of espionage and arrested in Russia, stands inside the defendants’ cage during a court hearing in Moscow on August 23, 2019.



CNN

Paul Whelan, an American detained in Russia, expressed renewed optimism about US efforts to secure his release in a call with CNN on Wednesday, but acknowledged there was “a little bit of concern” that the latest decision… An American soldier was arrested in Russia It can complicate matters.

Whelan, who has been detained for more than five years in Russia and who the US State Department has classified as wrongfully detained, said he was “broadly” aware of the arrest after his parents informed him but did not know any details.

American Sgt. His mother said that Gordon Black traveled to Russia without permission from the US military to visit his girlfriend. He was arrested in the far eastern city of Vladivostok last week on charges of theft. The court ordered him to remain in pre-trial detention until 2 July. The United States was not granted consular access to see him.

Whelan said he had “a little concern” that if Black were labeled wrongly detained, it could derail negotiations for his release and the release of detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovitch.

The State Department has not yet made that decision in Black’s case, and that is often a long process.

“This latest arrest will complicate my situation if this person is declared wrongfully detained,” he told CNN, explaining that when Trevor Reed and Brittney Greiner were arrested, “it complicated things.” Both Reed and Greiner were classified as unlawfully detained by the State Department and were later released in a prisoner exchange with Russia. US officials said Russia refused to include Whelan in either of these exchanges.

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“Unfortunately, if this man is declared wrongfully detained, it will start negotiations between Ivan and I again, because then it will be just the three of us. And that’s one of the problems we’ve had in the past. They were negotiating on my behalf, then it was me and Trevor, and then Britney and I. And now it’s Evan and I and every time they negotiate, it’s always a fresh start when there’s someone else involved,” he explained. “It’s a little unnerving.

However, Whelan sounded more positive about US efforts to secure his release than in his previous conversations With CNN.

In a phone call from his remote Mordovia concentration camp on Wednesday, Whelan explained that in December, on the anniversary of his arrest, “I was very depressed.”

“It’s been five years. Nothing seems to be happening. The proposals made were not respected by the Russians. And the Russians didn’t seem to come up with logical proposals of their own. I was very depressed because there wasn’t enough movement and not enough was done. Since then Now, I have made several phone calls and spoken with several high-ranking people who have assured me that they are doing everything they can.

“I know there are negotiations going on, and proposals have been made. It’s worrying that it’s gone on for so long, but I hope we’re close to the end, and that the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t just another train coming towards me, as I like to say,” he said.

The Biden administration has put forward several “important” proposals to the Russians regarding Whelan. One was filed and rejected in late November to try to return Whelan and Gershkovitch, who were also labeled as wrongfully detained. U.S. officials have consistently said bringing Whelan and Gershkovitch home is a top priority.

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“Paul has shown tremendous resilience in the face of difficult circumstances,” a State Department spokesman said on Wednesday. Russia must release him immediately.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Whelan in mid-February — at least the third time the top US diplomat has spoken by phone with the former Marine. The two also spoke in August 2023 and December 2022.

“The State Department has reassured me that they have everyone working on this as best they can and that they are doing everything they can to resolve this issue. However, as you know, I have made many requests to speak to the President, and I would like to speak to people at the highest levels to make sure that they They realize what the situation is and that I am being held hostage and I have not done anything and I explain that I really need their help to solve this problem.