U.S. embassy makes contact with Whelan

Paul Whelan, a former Marine and brother to Island artist Elizabeth Whelan, could be part of deal to be released from Russian prison. — Courtesy Elizabeth Whelan

Updated Jan. 4

Paul Whelan, the American man with a Vineyard tie detained in Russia for alleged espionage, has been in contact with the U.S. embassy in Moscow and is safe, according to a statement from Whelan’s brother David Friday.

We are relieved and very pleased to know that staff of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow have been given consular access to Paul and confirmed that he is safe. We deeply appreciate Ambassador Huntsman’s commitment to stay in regular contact with Paul during his detention and his assurances that Paul’s rights will be respected. Our focus remains on ensuring that Paul is safe, well treated, has a good lawyer, and is coming home. We urge the U.S. Congress and the State Department to help on Paul’s behalf to secure his release and return him home soon,” the statement read.

Whelan was formally charged Wednesday by Russian investigative agencies, according to the Russian news service Interfax.

Interfax cites an “informed source” saying Whelan had been indicted, but denies the charges against him.

Whelan, a Marine Corps veteran, is the brother of Elizabeth Whelan, an Edgartown-based artist.

Whelan was visiting Moscow to attend a wedding, according to a written statement from the Whelan family. The family noticed he was no longer in communication on Dec. 28, which they said was out of character for him even while traveling. On Monday they learned of his detention from several news articles. The family has contacted Congressional representatives, the U.S. Embassy, and the State Department.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (F.S.B.) detained Whelan on Friday and opened a criminal case against him, according to The New York Times. Conviction on a spying charge can result in a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

“We are deeply concerned for his safety and well-being. His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected,” the statement reads.

Elizabeth Whelan declined a request for an interview on her brother’s ordeal, but did take to Facebook where she wrote: “My brother was detained by the Russian government on Friday as an alleged spy. While I use this account mainly to talk about artwork, you may see additional updates here until we get him safely home.”


Updated to include latest information. -Ed.