US Ambassador Prepares to Meet Whelan in Russia

( – The US ambassador to Russia is preparing to meet a US citizen jailed in Russia on spying charges. Paul Whelan has been held by Vladimir Putin’s regime since 2018 and he isn’t scheduled for release until 2036. The Biden administration says he’s being “wrongfully detained,” but hasn’t made any serious effort to get him released.

Paul Whelan was born in Ottawa, Canada, in 1970, to British parents, and moved to the US sometime before 1988; he currently holds US, British, Canadian, and Irish citizenship. He worked in law enforcement for several years, although his own accounts of his career differ significantly from what the police departments he claimed to have worked for are saying, then worked for staffing agency Kelly Services from 2001 to 2016.

In 1994, he also joined the US Marine Corps Reserve, working as a clerk; he reached the rank of Staff Sergeant and deployed to Iraq, but in 2008 he was court-martialed for theft and given a bad conduct discharge.

In 2018, while working in Russia as the security director for a Michigan auto parts company, Whelan was arrested in Moscow by the Federal Security Service (FSB). The FSB says he was carrying a USB drive with a list of employees of a Russian security agency. At his 2020 trial, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

On September 13, the US Embassy in Moscow posted on its Telegram account saying Ambassador Lynne Tracy would travel to Penal Colony IK-17 in Mordovia, south of Moscow. In its statement, the embassy said “The plight of U.S. citizens detained in Russia remains a top priority for the U.S. government,” and called for his immediate release.

Whelan has always denied the espionage charges, and the Biden administration says he’s not a US intelligence officer. The CIA has also said it wouldn’t recruit someone with Whelan’s poor military record. However, Russia insists he’s guilty, so it’s unlikely he’ll be released unless Russia gets something in return.

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