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US ambassador to Russia visits jailed US national Paul Whelan

The ambassador lashed out at the fact that Whelan had not been able to contact his relatives for 13 months
US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan Alexander Shcherbak/TASS
US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan
© Alexander Shcherbak/TASS

MOSCOW, January 30. /TASS/. US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan has visited jailed US national Paul Whelan, accused in Russia of espionage, at a detention facility in Moscow, US Embassy Spokesperson Rebecca Ross informed on Twitter.

"Ambassador Sullivan is meeting with #PaulWhelan today in Lefortovo Prison in Moscow. Paul’s health and welfare are of great concern for the U.S. Government," she wrote.

This is the first time Sullivan has visited Whelan. His predecessor Jon Huntsman repeatedly visited the jailed American during his term as ambassador.

Sullivan later commented that the situation of the US national Paul Whelan, who remains in custody in Russia’s Lefortovo prison and hasn't been able to contact his parents for a long time, is concerning. "Among the most important parts of my job here as the US ambassador is to protect the welfare of American citizens, and I would like to reiterate our concerns about Paul Whelan’s continued detention, and the fact that he has not been able to speak with his parents for over 13 months. Paul has in fact submitted multiple formal requests to make phone calls. The investigator has denied some requests, and ignored others," the envoy said.

"I’d say that, in contrast, prisoners in the United States, including Russian citizens, convicted of serious crimes, have access to telephones to contact their family and friends. Some have even held press conferences while in prison and gave interviews to the media. Paul’s parents, his mother and father, would simply like to hear their son’s voice, which they haven’t heard in over 13 months," Sullivan concluded.

US citizen Paul Whelan, who also holds British, Canadian and Irish citizenship, was detained by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) on December 28, 2018 in Moscow while on an alleged spy mission. A criminal investigation was launched against him on espionage charges carrying a punishment of up to 20 years behind bars. Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly pointed out that Whelan’s complaints about contact restrictions are baseless, since he has never filed a relevant request.

John Sullivan has assumed office on January 16, superseding Jon Huntsman Jr, who resigned in August 2019. Earlier, Sullivan served as the US Deputy Secretary of State.