Paul Whelan was in Russian prison hospital, brother says

Russia At War

(NewsNation) — American Paul Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence in Russia on espionage charges the U.S. calls politically motivated.

After weeks of silence, Whelan was finally able to contact his family Friday. He was recently transferred to a prison hospital, a move the Whelan family called “highly unusual.”

The only connection Whelan has to his family are daily phone calls to his parents, brother David Whelan said on “NewsNation Live,” so when they didn’t hear from him, they grew worried.

When the family contacted the U.S. Embassy, they learned officials had also not gotten a scheduled call from Paul Whelan.

“Obviously, when a person is hostage in Russia, and they stop communicating, you start to worry about the potential things that could happen,” David Whelan said. “Fortunately, in this case, it was nothing serious. It was just a lot of miscommunication.”

Because of the war between Russia and Ukraine, David Whelan said, Russian officials are recruiting convicted prisoners from places like the labor colony Paul Whelan is in and sending them to fight on the frontlines.

Russian officials ended up going to Paul Whelan’s facility for recruitment, but apparently he wasn’t supposed to see this happen, David Whelan said.

“They removed him to a hospital nearby, but didn’t bother to let him communicate what had happened,” David Whelan said.

Paul was relatively safe while at the hospital, David Whelan said, but “it’s not a great place to be.”

“A lot of sick prisoners, a lot of serious offenders there,” David Whelan said.

The U.S. Embassy was finally able to see Paul Whelan on Nov. 16.

“All things considered, he’s doing as well as he can,” David Whelan said of his brother, who has lost 20% of his body weight while imprisoned. “He gets up every morning, and he sings the American National Anthem. He has a number of techniques that he uses, including the phone calls, to keep his morale up.”

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