Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine jailed in Russia, has not been heard from in a full month, his twin brother said Wednesday, raising concerns regarding his whereabouts amid growing calls for his release.
David Whelan said his family believes his brother remains jailed in Mordovia, where the Russian government operates a prison camp for foreigners, but was unsure since they last heard from him on July 4.
In an email, he said neither the U.S. Embassy in Moscow nor lawyers for the jailed American have been able to speak with him.
Russian media reported later Wednesday that a Mordovian prison official said Paul Whelan remains jailed there but has been held in a “punishment cell” and temporarily stripped of his telephone privileges.
“Yes, he is actually in the punishment cell. He has many violations - more than ten, according to my information,” said Valery Krutov of the Public Monitoring Commission of Mordovia, Interfax reported.
The official did not identify the specific violations but said they are insignificant and that the punishment should end soon, according to Interfax, a privately owned and managed Russian news agency.
Mr. Whelan, 51, was arrested in Moscow in late 2018 and charged with espionage. He was convicted last year during a secret trial and sentenced to 16 years imprisonment. He maintains he is innocent.
President Biden previously said that he raised Mr. Whelan‘s case when he met face to face with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June in Geneva, Switzerland.
More recently, the Senate passed a resolution last month demanding Moscow provide evidence to corroborate its claim that Mr. Whelan committed espionage or to immediately release him from prison already.
“We are grateful for their continued advocacy,” the alleged spy’s brother reacted Wednesday. “It gives us hope in these dark patches. We hope this advocacy will help to bring Paul‘s early release.”