Jailed American in Russia says he feels abandoned by United States - BBC

Credit: REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan who was convicted of espionage in Russia said he felt abandoned by the United States which has not come up with proposals acceptable enough for the Russians to agree to a prisoner swap, the BBC reported.

Whelan, who denies spying on Russia, was arrested by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in a room in Moscow's Metropol Hotel on Dec. 28, 2018. Investigators said he was caught red-handed with a flash drive containing sensitive information.

The United States has repeatedly denied that Whelan is a spy and repeatedly demanded his release, offering several different proposed deals to get Whelan home. Washington says he was "wrongfully detained".

Whelan told the BBC he felt "abandoned" by the United States and said a previous swap which left him behind in Russia was a "serious betrayal".

"I know the U.S. have all sorts of proposals, but it's not what the Russians want. So they go back and forth, like throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks," the BBC quoted him saying.

"The problem is, it's my life that's draining away while they do this. It's been five years."

The United States has repeatedly told its citizens to leave Russia immediately and warns that those who stay are at serious risk of arbitrary arrest or harassment by Russian law enforcement agencies.

Last December, U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner was released from a Russian penal colony as part of a prisoner swap with Russia. Whelan was not released in that swap.

President Vladimir Putin, when asked this month about a possible prisoner swap for the Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and Whelan, said he hoped an agreement would be reached, but that the U.S. had to listen to Russia's conditions.

"It is not simple, I will not go into details now, but in general, it seems to me that we speak a language that is understandable to each other," Putin said. "I hope we will find a solution. But, I repeat, the American side must hear us and make an appropriate decision, one that suits the Russian side."

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said after the Putin remarks that discussions were ongoing but Russia had rebuffed a serious proposal. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the United States wanted a deal.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Michael Perry)

((guy.faulconbridge@thomsonreuters.com; Telephone +79856400243;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


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