Paul Whelan, a US citizen detained in Russia, has been released from solitary confinement in his Mordovian penal colony in the country, according to Russian state news agency TASS.
TASS cited Whelan’s lawyer Olga Karlova on Sunday as saying, “Whelan’s brother David let me know that Paul had been released from the penal solitary unit. He was able to call his parents on Saturday. While the staff of the US Embassy is on vacation, it is difficult for them to visit him.”
“So far, Paul has not been given an opportunity to talk to me either,” Karlova said, according to TASS.
The former United States Marine was detained in Moscow in December 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison for an espionage charge he vehemently denies.
David Whelan said his brother was sent to the penal unit for “violating the regime,” according to TASS, which reported that Karlova said Whelan has been in the solitary unit for five weeks, and no contact with him was permitted.
David Whelan said last week that his brother “has been a Russian government hostage for 950 days.”
“We think Paul is still somewhere in Mordovia. But no one has spoken to him in a month who knows,” David Whelan said in a statement to reporters Wednesday. He added: “Ms. Karlova, Paul’s lawyer, has filed a complaint with the head of the prison system accusing the prison staff of negligence. Paul has been in solitary confinement for 30 days so far. Hopefully they will not tack on another 15 days and Paul will emerge this week.”
CNN reported last month that David Whelan had said his brother returned to his labor camp in late June after spending nearly three weeks in a medical facility at a different camp.
According to David, Paul Whelan was not given medical attention until two weeks into his stay there, and after a chest and elbow X-ray, “he was given no additional medical treatment.”
“Paul has returned to his labor camp in much the same condition he left it,” David said in an email to reporters.
President Joe Biden said he had discussed the cases of Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed – another American detained in Russia – during his June meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, pledging to “follow through” on that discussion.
“I raised the case of two wrongfully imprisoned American citizens, Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed,” Biden said during a news following the summit in Geneva. “The families of the detained Americans came up and we discussed them. We’re going to follow through with that discussion. I am not going to walk away on that.”
CNN’s Devan Cole and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.