Health of Novi man held in Russia deteriorating

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

The family of a Michigan man held on spying charges in Russia is concerned that his medical condition is deteriorating. 

Paul Whelan's medical condition is "still unclear, but Paul had an unplanned doctor's visit last Friday which suggests it's deteriorating, not improving, and could lead to emergency surgery," according to the @freepaulwhelan Twitter feed run by his brother, David.  

One of Whelan's Russian attorneys, Olga Karlova, said by email Friday that Whelan "had some problems with his hernia last week on Friday."

"He was examined by a doctor, who proscribed some medicine (painkillers and special pills) to release the tension, to block the spasm," she wrote.

"Paul feels much better now. But doctors decide if Paul needs a surgery and if he does, when to make it."

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow warned last month that Whelan's condition had worsened, and that Russia had rejected an April request to send an outside doctor to examine him. 

The embassy said at the time that Whelan had received basic medical assistance, but that his condition has deteriorated.

Paul Whelan, a former US Marine accused of espionage and arrested in Russia, listens to his lawyers while standing inside a defendants' cage during a hearing at a court in Moscow on Jan. 22, 2019.

Whelan, of Novi, has been held in prison in Moscow for more than seven months, since his arrest in a hotel room in December. He was charged with espionage, which carries up to 20 years in prison in Russia.

Whelan has denied the charges against him and publicly complained of poor prison conditions, claiming his life is in danger. 

His state-appointed lawyers say he was framed when he was handed a flash drive with classified data on it of which he had no knowledge.

Russia has not revealed any evidence against Whelan. Karlova said his case could be brought to trial later this year, possibly in October or November.