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American prisoner Paul Whelan appears in new Russia state media video

Whelan is serving a yearslong sentence in a Russian maximum-security prison. U.S. officials said they have spoken with him in recent months.
American Paul Whelan jailed in Russia.
Posted at 7:43 AM, Aug 30, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-30 07:43:39-04

American Paul Whelan, who has been held by Russia for more than four years, made a rare appearance in a new video broadcast and posted online by Russian state media outlet Russia Today. 

In the video, Russian state media says it shows Whelan sewing materials wearing an inmate uniform in one of  Russia's high-security prisons, where he has been since 2020. 

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In the video released on Monday, Whelan can be seen being led around in a prison camp among other prisoners. He is seen operating a sewing machine and eating alongside other prisoners. 

The reporter claimed Whelan waved the television crew over to him, but said when they approached him he wouldn't answer their questions, even though he had allegedly signed a waiver— which the report showed on screen — consenting for them to interview him. 

"So you understand when I say that I can't do an interview, which means I can't answer any questions," Whelan tells the reporter in the video. 

Whelan can be seen grinning when he spots the crew. 

When asked by someone off camera what his "count for the day" is as he sits at a sewing machine working - Whelan answers in Russian,"One hundred units," with an unsure-sounding enunciation at the end of the phrase. 

He says that 80 units is standard for one day, appearing to understand the Russian language quite well. 

Whelan was speaking and answering questions on camera about his work from the person off camera, but when the reporter approached him, he made it clear he was not willing to be interviewed by him. 

"I can't do an interview," he clearly states to the reporter. 

The report goes on to display security video that purports to show visits by embassy staff, including the British Embassy, who are there to visit Whelan while incarcerated. The report says Whelan is a British citizen, as well. 

Whelan holds British, Irish and Canadian Passports, in addition to his United States documents. 

Whelan has been held in Russian prison on espionage charges since 2020 when he was sentenced to 16 years in prison for spying. 

Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, was found guilty of attempting to steal $10,410.59 and pass fraudulent checks to pay off debt while deployed to Iraq in 2006, and was known then as Staff Sgt. Whelan.

Whelan's twin brother David Whelan spoke to Scripps News in June to urge authorities to take more action to secure his release by Russia, and to talk about the difficulties and frustrations of Paul's continued imprisonment.

Authorities say Russia may have an issue on its hands as Whelan holds multiple nationalities and therefore is not just up against the United States when it comes to attempts to secure his release.