The US ambassador to Russia and the family of Paul Whelan expressed concern for his treatment and well-being as the US citizen remains detained in Moscow amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Whelan, who was arrested in December 2018 on espionage charges, marked his 16th month in custody as the prosecution in his trial rested its case this week.
Ambassador John Sullivan, the US envoy to Moscow, said he was twice denied access to see Whelan in court over the past several weeks. Sullivan said in a video posted Tuesday that Russian authorities had denied both “repeated requests for an outside English speaking doctor to examine him” and attempts by the US Embassy to deliver masks, gloves and sanitizer.
Instead of personal protective equipment, inmates at Lefortovo Prison are being given onions to ward off coronavirus, Paul Whelan’s sister Elizabeth Whelan told CNN.
“Obviously, Covid, huge problem and Moscow does not have this under control and absolutely doesn’t give two hoots about what happens to anybody in prison,” she said Wednesday. There are more than 99,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Russia and more than 900 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.
“We don’t have any faith that Paul’s health is being taken care of,” Elizabeth Whelan added, noting that he is not getting any supplemental food due to restrictions on visits to the prison by the embassy.
CNN has reached out to the Russian embassy for comment.
Whelan’s trial is set to resume in mid-May, according to the family, and the prosecution presented its case in only three days. The US ambassador questioned the methods and veracity behind the trial, which is being held behind closed doors, and suggested that he had seen no evidence against Whelan.
“It’s time to stop this charade, this mockery of justice,” Sullivan said. “How? The answer is simple: let Paul Whelan go home. Let him go home now.”
Elizabeth Whelan and a source close to the family both said they believed Whelan being found guilty was a foregone conclusion.
“There is a pre-determined end to this entire thing, I am positive, and everybody is busy playing their part,” she said.
They also said they believed that the end of the trial and the sentencing could present the opportunity to free Whelan.
The source close to the family said the trial had been moved up from the summer and they were optimistic that this and the quick pace of the trial were a sign that “there is a desire to get a conclusion to this on behalf of the Russians. They could have just kept kicking the ball down the road for a long time on this case.”
Elizabeth Whelan said she got “the sense that everybody is ready to get on with this.”
“But Paul is really suffering in the meantime,” she said.