Brother of Russia-imprisoned American says contact resumed

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MOSCOW — The household of Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia for espionage, mentioned Friday that he has resumed contact after unexpectedly turning into unreachable in November.

Along with WNBA star Brittney Griner, Whelan is the main target of efforts by the United States to rearrange a prisoner swap with Russia.

The Associated Press and different information organizations have reported that Washington has provided to alternate Griner and Whelan for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms seller who’s serving a 25-year sentence within the U.S. and as soon as earned the nickname the “service provider of demise.”

Whelan’s brother, David, mentioned in an emailed assertion that Paul had referred to as his dad and mom early U.S. time on Friday, the primary time any member of the family had spoken with him since Nov. 23. The household had been informed that he was moved to a jail hospital, however that the rationale for that was unclear as a result of he had not spoken of well being issues.

In the decision, he didn’t clarify why he was on the hospital, however mentioned he’d been given “particular dispensation” to name, indicating he had been prohibited from calling beforehand, David Whelan mentioned.

“So the decision at the very least acts as a ‘proof of life’ even when nothing else is defined,” he mentioned.

Alexei Tyurkin, the chairman of the jail monitoring fee within the Mordovia area the place Whelan is incarcerated, mentioned he was within the jail hospital for “deliberate therapy,” however didn’t elaborate, based on state information company RIA-Novosti.

Whelan, a former Marine who later labored as a company safety government, was arrested in Moscow in December 2018. His lawyer mentioned Whelan was handed a flash drive that had labeled info on it that he didn’t find out about.

Whelan was convicted in 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in jail.

Griner was sentenced to 9 years in jail in August for drug possession after vape canisters containing hashish oil had been present in her baggage at a Moscow airport in February. Her prominence as an athlete, together with two Olympic gold medals, has drawn extensive consideration to her case.

Asked by reporters on Tuesday whether or not a swap is feasible earlier than the yr’s finish, Russia’s deputy overseas minister, Sergei Ryabkov, responded: “There all the time is an opportunity.”

“Regrettably, there have been a couple of events when it appeared {that a} choice in favor of it was about to be made, however it by no means occurred,” Ryabkov mentioned with out elaborating.

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