The Senate pressed Thursday for the release of Trevor Reed and Paul Whelan, two Marine Corps veterans serving lengthy prison sentences in Russia for crimes they deny committing.
Lawmakers passed by unanimous consent two resolutions: one “calling for the immediate release” of Mr. Reed and another demanding the Russian government “provide evidence or to release” Mr. Whelan.
The House passed an identical resolution last month calling for the release of Mr. Reed, 30, a Texan convicted in 2020 of drunkenly assaulting Russian police and sentenced to nine years in prison.
Mr. Whelan, 51, of Michigan, was convicted of espionage in 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. A resolution asking Russia to show evidence of his alleged crime or to free him is pending in the House.
Both men have maintained their innocence and insist their convictions are politically motivated. President Biden said he raised their cases with Russian President Vladimir Putin when they met last month in Geneva.
Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, applauded the passage of both resolutions in a statement he shared on social media.
“I’m glad to see the quick passage of two resolutions calling for the immediate release of #TrevorReed & #PaulWhelan, two unjustly detained Americans in #Russia,” Mr. Risch wrote on Twitter.
“Their release is long overdue, & I thank my colleagues for amplifying this message today,” Mr. Risch added.
Moscow criticized what it called “anti-Russian resolutions” in a statement it shared on social media Friday via the Facebook account of the Russian Embassy in Washington.
“Maybe it’s time for parliamentarians to address problems within their own country?” the statement said in part.
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, introduced the Senate resolution seeking the release of Mr. Reed in February. It had six co-sponsors – four Democrats and two Republicans – when it was approved.
Sen. Gary Peters, Michigan Democrat, introduced the Whelan resolution in June. It had three co-sponsors – two Democrats and Mr. Cornyn – when it was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate this week.
The resolution in the House calling on Russia to release Mr. Whelan if Moscow cannot provide evidence of his alleged crime has 30 co-sponsors, including 16 Republicans and 14 Democrats.
“We are grateful for the continued efforts of U.S. elected representatives to advocate for and champion Paul‘s case,” his brother, David Whelan, said in an emailed statement Friday. “They embody representative democracy in their ongoing concern for an American veteran wrongly detained by a foreign nation. We know that the Senate has many issues on which to deliberate and appreciate that Paul‘s use as a political hostage by Russia was one of them.”