Embassy says health of Novi native Whelan has worsened in prison
Moscow — The U.S. Embassy in Moscow says the condition of an American man held on spying charges in Russia has worsened.
An embassy spokeswoman said on Twitter Monday that Russian authorities had rejected an April request to send an outside doctor to examine Paul Whelan of Novi, who has been imprisoned for six months.
The embassy said Whelan has received basic medical assistance, but that his condition has deteriorated.
Whelan, who also holds British, Irish and Canadian citizenship, was arrested in a hotel room in Moscow in December and charged with espionage, which carries up to 20 years in prison.
The former U.S. Marine, who denies the charges, has publicly complained of poor prison conditions and has said his life is in danger.
During a June 20 court hearing, he pleaded for President Donald Trump to intervene, saying he's the victim of “an absurd political kidnapping.”
Meanwhile, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Monday denied plans to exchange Whelan for Russians in U.S. custody, the Associated Press reported.
Earlier Monday in Moscow, news services had reported that Ryabkov urged the U.S. to consider swapping a jailed Russian pilot convicted of drug smuggling for its own citizens detained in Russia.
Konstantin Yaroshenko could be exchanged for “an American or Americans who are imprisoned” in Russia, though the U.S. hasn’t responded positively to previous offers, Ryabkov said, according to the Interfax news service.
Yaroshenko is serving a 20-year sentence for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. after he was arrested in Liberia in 2010 and extradited to America.
Ryabkov urged the U.S. to make an agreement on swapping Yaroshenko before any verdict is reached in Whelan's case, the state-run Tass news service reported.
A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department on Monday said the government continues to closely follow all cases of imprisoned U.S. citizens in Russia but would not comment on private diplomatic discussions.
David Whelan, Paul's twin brother, said Monday that his family has not spoken with anyone in the U.S. government about possibilities for swapping Paul but added that he's confident officials will find the best method for freeing him.
"We have tried to avoid getting in the diplomats' way, and a swap may not be their preferred approach to free Paul," David Whelan said.
"It's tricky because Paul has not done anything other than visit Russia. If he is swapped for an arms dealer or drug smuggler, it may appear as a ransom. On the other hand, Russia is clearly unsafe for American tourists and business travelers, so perhaps Americans should stop going, and those being wrongfully detained there returned to their homes."