Sanctions imposed by the White House this week have created new concerns for supporters of Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed, two U.S. Marine Corps veterans serving contentious prison sentences in Russia.
Advocates for either U.S. citizen imprisoned abroad reacted less than favorably to Washington imposing new sanctions on Moscow this week, which prompted Russia to announce retaliatory action Friday.
“The Biden Administration‘s actions and the anticipated reciprocal Russian response raise two concerns for our family,” Mr. Whelan’s twin brother, David, said in a statement he sent to reporters.
“First, the sanctions continue to make it difficult for the two nations to create the relationship and dialogue necessary to create conditions that might lead to Paul’s release,” he explained. “Second, the winnowing of U.S. Embassy staff in Russia will make the difficult work of consular support even harder.”
Russian officials arrested Mr. Whelan, 51, at a Moscow hotel in late 2018. A judge subsequently convicted of espionage, which he adamantly denies, and sentenced him to 16 years in prison.
Mr. Reed, 29, was arrested in Moscow in 2019 while drunk. Authorities claim he endangered police while in custody, convicted him accordingly and issued a nine-year sentence, which he is appealing.
Jonathan Franks, a spokesperson for the Reed family, said it was “really unfortunate” they learned of the sanctions on TV and wondered if the White House considered the implications it could have.
Mr. Franks added he found it “incredibly frustrating” the Biden administration has imposed sanctions on Russia that do not account for what he called the “state-sponsored kidnapping” of American vets.
The White House had announced a range of measures Thursday against Russia over a host of activity including the SolarWinds hack, its occupation of Crimea and involvement in the 2020 U.S. elections.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that Russia would respond starting with the expulsion of 10 U.S. diplomats, meanwhile.