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Paul Whelan Says US Working for His Release From Russian Prison

(Bloomberg) -- Paul Whelan, the former Marine imprisoned in Russia, said he’s confident that the US is working to secure his release, CNN reported.

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“I remain positive and confident on a daily basis that the wheels are turning,” the US-based broadcaster quoted Whelan as saying in an interview on Sunday. “I just wish they would turn a little bit more quickly.”

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Whelan was sentenced to a 16-year term in 2020 on spying charges he denies, after being detained in December 2018 while attending a wedding in Moscow. The US State Department says Whelan is being wrongfully detained. In March, Russia detained a US journalist, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, for alleged espionage.

US Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy visited Whelan in a prison in Mordovia, a region southeast of Moscow, according to a May 4 tweet by the embassy that said his release “remains an absolute priority.”

“I have been told that I won’t be left behind, and I have been told that although Evan’s case is a priority, mine is also a priority, and people are cognizant of the fact that this is having an extremely negative impact on me and my family,” CNN cited Whelan as saying in a call from his prison camp.

Read more: Russian Suspect Key to US Tech Probes Escapes Arrest in Italy

President Joe Biden’s administration spent months securing the release of WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner and said publicly in July that it had made an offer for the return of both Griner and Whelan. Efforts for a deal involving both Americans foundered, despite several names put forward by Moscow to exchange for Whelan.

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