Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia for more than two years, said he wants President Biden to “aggressively discuss and resolve” his detainment when he meets with his counterpart in the Kremlin.
Mr. Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, urged the White House to help arrange for his release from a Russian penal colony while speaking by phone to CNN in a recent interview the network released Wednesday.
“Decisive action is needed immediately. The abduction of an American citizen cannot stand anywhere in the world,” Mr. Whelan, 51, said in the phone interview.
Mr. Whelan was arrested in Moscow in late 2018 and accused of espionage, which he adamantly denies. He was subsequently convicted during a closed-door trial and sentenced to 16-years in a Russian prison.
Mr. Biden is set to speak face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time since entering office when they attend a summit scheduled to take place June 16 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Speaking to CNN, Mr. Whelan described himself as a hostage of the Russian government and said he hopes the Biden and Putin administrations can arrange for his release when the leaders meet this month.
“This is not an issue of Russia against me; it’s an issue of Russia against the United States, and the United States needs to answer this hostage diplomacy situation and resolve it as quickly as possible. So I would ask President Biden to aggressively discuss and resolve this issue with his Russian counterparts,” Mr. Whelan said by phone.
“It’s pretty simple. There was no crime. There was no evidence. The secret trial was a sham,” Mr. Whelan added. “This was done purely for political motive. And it’s really up to the governments to sort out either an exchange or some sort of resolution. My hope is that it will be quick. It’s been more than two years.”
Mr. Whelan is not the only former Marine imprisoned in Russia. Trevor Reed of Texas is serving a nine-year sentence there for allegedly injuring two police officers.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Moscow to release both men while speaking last month to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, State Department spokesman Ned Price said at the time.