- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rejected complaints Tuesday about the ongoing detainment of Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine jailed in Moscow for nearly a year.

Speaking at the U.S. State Department, Mr. Lavrov said Russia is treating Mr. Whelan’s health with all seriousness and acting in accordance with domestic and international rules.

He also alleged that Mr. Whelan has been threatening penitentiary officers and making “all kind of arrogant accusations,” adding that his lawyers may be trying to “create an image of a martyr.”

“We are acting in full compliance with our law and those international norms that can be applied in this case,” Mr. Lavrov said in Russian.

Mr. Whelan, 49, was arrested in Moscow in December 2018 and accused by Russian investigators of espionage. He has denied spying and has described the allegations as “garbage.”

“The Russian government only thinks Paul is being arrogant because he is seeking justice,” his brother David Whelan said on social media.

Mr. Lavrov, Russia’s top diplomat, was asked about the jailed American during a joint press conference held following him meeting in D.C. with Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo.

Mr. Pompeo told reporters he raised the issue of Mr. Whelan during the meeting and said that “bringing home our citizens abroad as soon as possible is one of President Trump’s highest priorities.”

The State Department has previously argued that Russia should either release evidence to support keeping Mr. Whelan in custody or release him immediately, and the House of Representatives passed a resolution in October making the same request.

Mr. Lavrov on Tuesday reiterated Moscow’s stance that the court case against Mr. Whelan must finish before any decision is made about his potential return to the U.S. Those proceedings are currently expected to start in 2020.

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