American detainee Paul Whelan phoned his parents from Russia early on Friday, his brother said, the first contact since a period of silence last week that spurred the White House to express concern.
Whelan, a former US Marine detained in Russia since 2018 and convicted on espionage charges in 2020, had been transferred to the hospital prison, his brother, David Whelan, said in a statement.
“So the call at least acts as a ‘proof of life’, even if nothing else has been explained: when Paul went there, why, why the calls stopped, why the US Embassy had to seek i nformation about his whereabouts and the Russian authorities refused to respond, etc,” his brother said.
A senior State Department official confirmed that Whelan was transferred to the prison hospital last Thursday, on the US Thanksgiving Day holiday. The official said he spoke with US consular officials and was returned to the penal colony on Friday.
On Wednesday, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the United States was “deeply concerned” about why they had not been able to get information on Whelan’s whereabouts or condition from Moscow.
Kirby addressed the issue after Whelan’s family said this week that they had not heard from Paul since Nov. 23, but had seen reports he had been moved to the prison hospital.