- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2020

John Sullivan, President Trump’s newly confirmed ambassador to Russia, met for the first time Thursday with Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine jailed in Moscow for more than 13 months on suspicion of spying.

Mr. Sullivan, the president’s former deputy secretary of state, visited Mr. Whelan at Lefortovo prison in Moscow where the 49-year-old Michigan resident and Marine Corps veteran has been held since late 2018.

“I came to Lefortovo today to see Paul Whelan because his welfare and protection are a priority for the U.S. government and for me personally,” Mr. Sullivan told reporters outside the prison, according to Rebecca Ross, a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Russia.

“Paul Whelan’s case has gone on far too long. Investigators have shown no evidence – zero. Russian authorities show no credible justification for isolating Paul and refuse to allow Paul to get proper medical attention. This is shameful treatment,” Mr. Sullivan added, the spokesperson said on Twitter. “It’s time for this nightmare to end, and for Paul to go home.”

Mr. Sullivan, who previously served in the Commerce Department under former President George W. Bush, was confirmed by the Senate in December to succeed Jon Huntsman as Mr. Trump’s ambassador to Russia.

He arrived in Moscow on January 16, and his meeting with Mr. Whelan marked the first consular visit the prisoner has received in more than a month.

“Paul will be delighted to see people today with whom he can speak,” Mr. Whelan’s family members said in a statement. “It has been 6 weeks since he’s seen - or been seen - by English speakers. We’re eager to hear how Paul’s holding up in his continued defiance against the Russian authorities’ wrongful detention.”

Russian officials allege Mr. Whelan was arrested in Moscow while in possession of a USB drive containing classified information and have accordingly accused him of espionage.

Mr. Whelan has argued he was set-up by an acquaintance employed by the Russian government and has previously described himself as a “political prisoner.”

His trial is currently expected to start later this year.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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