Paul Whelan released from solitary confinement in Russian prison

Paul Whelan, a US citizen detained in Russia, has been released from solitary confinement in his Mordovian penal colony in the country, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

By Jennifer Hansler, CNN

(CNN) -- Paul Whelan, a US citizen detained in Russia, has been released from solitary confinement and was able to speak with his parents, his brother David Whelan told CNN Sunday.

David Whelan said his brother, who had been detained in a Mordovian penal colony, was released either Thursday or Friday. He had not been able to speak to his family, his lawyer Olga Karlova for a month, or the US Embassy, and according to David Whelan he still has not spoken to the Embassy or Karlova.

"He seems to have survived solitary confinement none the worse for wear but he was wary on the phone," David Whelan said in an email to CNN, adding that Paul "mentioned to our parents that his ability to call is 'on sufferance' and so perhaps he anticipates additional retribution."

David Whelan added in an email to the press Monday that his brother was not permitted to shower or exercise during his month in solitary in confinement.

He was only allowed to shower and given an hour of exercise last Wednesday, when he had an unexpected visit from UK Embassy officials.

"One silver lining to being in solitary confinement for 30 days was that Paul had uninterrupted sleep since the every-two-hour nightly 'flight risk' check by guards wasn't made," David Whelan said.

According to David Whelan, Paul does not know why he was put in solitary confinement.

"Russian prison monitor Valery Krutov was quoted by Russian media as saying Paul had accumulated 'more than 10' minor infractions," David Whelan noted on Monday. "The prison has not provided this information to either Paul's lawyers or any consular representatives, despite being requested."

"Paul has never mentioned anything beyond things like his uniform being out of alignment, things that are apparently documented in Russian but not explained to him in English," he said. "Paul has asked to see the list of infractions but they have not been provided to him either."

Paul Whelan -- who is a US, Irish, British and Canadian citizen -- was detained at a Moscow hotel in December 2018 by Russian authorities who alleged he was involved in an intelligence operation. The former United States Marine was sentenced to 16 years in prison on an espionage charge he vehemently denies.

A State Department spokesperson told CNN Sunday that they "are aware of reports that authorities have released Paul from isolated detention."

"We remain focused on securing the release of Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed," who is another American detained in Russia, the spokesperson said.

On Monday, Reed's family spokesperson said he had been transferred from prison in Moscow to a penal colony in Mordovia.

"After being taken by train to Mordovia, Trevor was quarantined at the IK-18 forced labor camp before being transferred to IK-12 forced labor camp where we believe he will stay," Jonathan Franks said, noting that they were able to confirm Reed's location "through non-governmental sources we developed on our own."

Last week, US Embassy spokesperson Jason Rebholz said "the Russian government has still not officially informed the embassy of his whereabouts, despite our repeated requests."

CNN has reached out to the State Department for comment on Reed's whereabouts.

Franks said Monday that the family has "serious concerns about his safety" and what they've "learned about Trevor's conditions of confinement these past few weeks shocks the conscience."

"We continue to be concerned by Trevor's continued complaints of chest pain and a persistent cough months after his COVID symptoms should have resolved," the family spokesperson said. "To date, the Russian Government has provided Trevor with no meaningful care."

"We remain incredibly grateful for the heroic efforts of Embassy Moscow these past few weeks to locate and obtain consular access to Trevor and regret the Russian Government decided to frustrate them in clear violation of their bi-lateral and multilateral obligations," he said.

President Joe Biden said he had discussed the cases of Paul Whelan and Reed during his June meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, pledging to "follow through" on that discussion.

"I raised the case of two wrongfully imprisoned American citizens, Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed," Biden said during a news following the summit in Geneva. "The families of the detained Americans came up and we discussed them. We're going to follow through with that discussion. I am not going to walk away on that."

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