The case of US citizen Paul Whelan, accused of spying in Russia, is an obstacle in relations between Washington and Moscow. This was stated in a statement by U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan, published on Monday, April 13, on the official website of the U.S. diplomatic mission.
“I came to Moscow with President Trump’s instruction to improve U.S.-Russian relations, and I am doing my best to do just that. The whole case against Paul – the circumstances of his arrest, the complete lack of evidence and his continued imprisonment – is not only morally wrong and legally suspicious, but also a significant obstacle to U.S.-Russian bilateral relations,” the statement said.
Sullivan also called on the Russian government to release Whelan to the Lefortovo detention facility and to release him home. In addition, the U.S. ambassador expressed hope for a fair and transparent trial as the trial progresses.
Earlier that day it became known that the Moscow City Court postponed the hearing of Whelan’s case to April 20. Before that, it became known that Sullivan was not allowed to the court hearing. Later, the Moscow City Court responded by saying that the Ambassador was not allowed because of restrictions in Moscow, as well as because of the secrecy of the Whelan case.
Whelan was detained during a spy action on December 28, 2018. A criminal case was initiated against him under Article 276 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“Spying”), which provides for a penalty of imprisonment for 10 to 20 years.
On December 24, 2019 the Moscow City Court extended the term of arrest of the accused until March 29. The hearing was held in closed session due to the secrecy of the case. The investigation was finally completed only in February 2020, and two weeks later the Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia finally approved the charge against Whelan.
On March 27 it was reported that the Moscow City Court postponed the trial against Whelan from March 30 to April 13.