Michigan man being detained in Russia undergoes emergency surgery, family says

Paul Whelan has been detained in Russia for more than a year on suspicion of espionage

The family of a Michigan man being detained in Russia on suspicion of being a spy said he has undergone emergency hernia surgery.

Paul Whelan was arrested by police in Russia more than a year ago. He was charged with espionage and has gone through a trial but has not seen a verdict. A verdict is reportedly expected in June.

In February, his family said they believed Whelan would remain bars in Russia for at least another year. At the time they said Whelan had a hernia that had gone untreated and the Russians had been using the language barrier to keep Whelan in the dark.

He took a “turn for the worse” and was transferred Friday for emergency surgery, his family said.

“We learned early this morning from the U.S. Embassy that Paul’s health had taken a turn for the worse. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the US Embassy to let them know Paul experienced severe abdominal pain yesterday evening. The prison transferred him to Sklifosovsky hospital where doctors performed an emergency hernia surgery. The surgery was successful and he will be transferred back to Lefortovo today,” reads a statement from his family on Friday, May 29, 2020. “There are no additional details as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has refused to answer any questions from the US Embassy about Paul’s condition without a diplomatic note. We continue to be concerned for Paul’s health, particularly now that, as he recuperates, he may be more susceptible to other illnesses or infections. The coronavirus is spreading through Lefortovo. Lawyers visiting the prison must now wear gowns and hoods, not just masks. We hope that the prison will take steps so that Paul doesn’t face any other health emergencies."

Whelan’s brother, David Whelan, has been closely following his brother’s case, offering updates ever since the Novi, Mich. resident was arrested in the Russian capital city in December 2018 on the suspicion of being a spy.

Russian authorities said Whelan was caught with state secrets on a flash drive in his possession. He said he was set up.

Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, has a residence in Novi and heads global security for auto supplier Borg-Warner. He has traveled to Russia for years and was in Moscow for a wedding, his family said. In court in September, Whelan called the charges against him “garbage.”

Whelan has citizenship not only in the U.S. but also in Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland. He is appealing to all four governments to help him.

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