Man worries over twin brother detained in Russia
A Russian news agency said the brother has been arrested, charged with espionage
The American arrested in Russia on allegations of espionage has a twin in Newmarket hoping to get his brother home safely.
David Whelan said his brother, Paul, 48, an American from Novi, Mich., stopped communicating with his family after Dec. 28, when he was in Moscow for a friend’s wedding.
A Russian news agency reported Thursday that Whelan has been formally charged with espionage, moving the case into Russia’s justice system and possibly deepening the diplomatic tensions with the United States. The Interfax news agency report on Whelan’s status could not be independently verified.
Russian lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov, who was appointed to represent Whelan, was quoted as saying the American will remain in custody in Moscow until at least Feb. 28. It was unclear whether court proceeding could be- gin before that date, or where Whelan could be held after February.
“His well- being is good. He’s making jokes,” state-run media quoted Zherebenkov as saying. Whelan will stay “quarantined” at Moscow’s Lefortovo detention facility before being transferred to a general cell after Russia marks Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 7, according to Zherebenkov.
The Whelans learned through the internet that the former Marine, who has completed several tours in Iraq, had been arrested. A Russian news agency said Paul could face up to 20 years in prison.
David Whelan appeared on CBC and CNN earlier this week to discuss the arrest and speak about the kind of person his brother is, suggesting Paul was concerned about mundane details such as his parents slipping on the ice or his dog’s trip to the veterinarian, rather than international politics, prior to his trip East.
“Paul’s a kind soul, he’s very generous, he’s notorious among my kids for his huge belly laugh,” he told CNN’S Inside Politics.
He added that Paul, who currently works in corporate security, had gone to Russia to help other Americans at the wedding navigate Moscow and its extensive metro sys- tem. “Paul’s a very capable person ... he’s not the type of person who would stumble into a strange environment or make poor choices that cause him risk,” David added.
In a Twitter post by David, the Whelan family released a statement saying how they are deeply concerned for Paul’s safety and well-being.
“His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected,” it continues.
Neither David nor Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State, would speculate about whether the arrest might be retaliation for the American prosecution of accused Russian spy Maria Butina, who recently pleaded guilty of conspiring to act as a clandestine foreign agent.
David Whelan said his brother, Paul (shown in photo), stopped communicating with his family after Dec. 28, when he was in Moscow for a friend’s wedding.