Could sanctions on Russia help get Paul Whelan back to America?

Sanctions may provide method for the US to seek his release

As Russia invades Ukraine, it's left relations between the U.S. and Russia on a razor's edge, and as it all happens, Paul Whelan is sitting in a Russian labor camp 5,300 miles away from his home here in Michigan.

It’s been a constant battle for Paul Whelan’s family ever since he was sentenced to prison in Russia in 2018.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has only made Paul Whelan’s family more concerned. Paul Whelan’s twin brother, Dave Whelan, spoke about his worries.

“We’re concerned. Fortunately, Paul is in a labor colony. So he is insulated from a lot of the devastation that’s going on in Ukraine. They are somewhat insulated from the crash of the ruble,” David Whelan said.

Although Paul Whelan is nowhere near the war in Ukraine, David Whelan is still worried about how Russia’s backlash may impact his brother’s wellbeing.

“Most of what we’re worried about is what may be happening outside of the prison, things like the impact of the sanctions on our ability to get money to Paul to put on his prison account and potentially the expulsion of the U.S. Embassy If that leaves Moscow,” David Whelan said.

David Whelan has an optimistic point of view on how the situation may play out.

“The sanctions may actually provide a method for the U.S. to seek Paul’s release faster than they might have otherwise,” David Whelan said.

David Whelan said President Joe Biden has been working to find ways to bring Paul Whelan home.

“I think we’re confident that the Biden administration is focused on trying to help Paul and a way to get him released. The stumbling block appears to have been on the Russian side,” David Whelan said. “I think we’ve always hoped that all would be released without conditions, without being part of some swap. And hopefully that will happen.”

There is another American being held with Paul Whelan, fellow Marine Trevor Reid. Many people are hoping the two men can return to American soil safely.

Read: Complete coverage on Paul Whelan

About the Authors:

Victor Williams joined Local 4 News in October of 2019 after working for WOIO in Cleveland, OH, WLOX News in Biloxi, MS, and WBBJ in Jackson, TN. Victor developed a love for journalism after realizing he was a great speaker and writer at an early age.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.