Day 1806 - Paul Whelan - IK-17 Mordovia Russia - December 8, 2023 - So Many Words, So Little Action, and a Statement from Paul
Today, December 8, it will have been a year since the U.S. was last able to successfully return an American from being wrongfully detained by Russia. Another year that Paul has had to wait for the U.S. government to go beyond words: "top priority", "substantial proposal". What do they even mean any more? If Paul's case was truly a top priority, you would think the White House would be moving mountains to secure his freedom.
But they aren't. It has taken nearly twelve months for the U.S. to gather its resources and make a singular offer for Paul's freedom. The offer was rejected. And we are once again back at square one, no further ahead than we were back on December 28, 2018. If there remain any stones to unturn, now is the time to uncover them.
President Biden has said "I'm not walking away" from Paul's case. [6/16/2021] "We ain't giving up." [11/23/20233] That sounds great but literal years are flowing by and out of Paul's life as he sits there waiting for this glut of words to mean something. John Kirby said the President "was willing to make the difficult decisions" to bring Paul home. [12/6/2023] Now is the time for President Biden to make them, just as he did last year and has in other hostage cases.
Our sister Elizabeth asked for a meeting with President Biden this past August and the White House has brushed her request off. Now would be a great time for the White House to show they were willing to do more than just air another platitude. A meeting would go a long way to reassure us that the President will keep his promise to Paul and will not miss an opportunity to bring Paul home to our family. Even an opportunity that is difficult to create and a hard decision to make.
Paul spoke to our parents as he does most days and, on Thursday's call [12/7/2023], asked them to pass on this statement from him in light of the year that has passed since December 8, 2022. Paul says, as relayed via our parents:
"A year has passed since the last prisoner exchange between the United States and Russia, a trade that left me behind for a second time. I sit here, an innocent man, for nearly five years while my life is bartered for in a diplomatic dispute that involves me only because I'm an American citizen. That is the only crime I have committed in Russia: being an American.'
The fake espionage case, amateurish as it was, has been debunked for years. Russia holds me for a king's ransom, constantly asking for more and more for the life of a tourist wrongfully detained. My parents are quite elderly and I have given up hope of seeing them again. Friends have moved on, relatives have passed away, as has my long suffering golden retriever Flora, who for 15 years and four days eagerly awaiting my return home.
The Russians have ruined my life. One that is destined to end in a slave labor camp, fraught with intolerable conditions for no reason other than a hatred of human rights and freedoms. I have been denied medical care that resulted in emergency surgery. Two prison officials were disciplined for misconduct towards me. I was recently assaulted by a prisoner for no reason other than being an American citizen.
The unconscionable act of leaving me behind twice now has devalued my life in these people's minds. The Russian government does nothing to ensure my safety. What will happen next? I remember a sense of shock when a young American citizen was left to die in North Korea by an administration that did not do enough to get him home. Now I am living that nightmare.
For nearly five years, I've been told that my release was a priority. I was told that everyone was doing everything they could to secure my release. In my mind, that has not been done at all. I've been promised that the United States is coming for me. I hope that happens before it's too late. Russia holds an innocent man in a country that does not honor the rule of law.
This game of diplomatic niceties and pleasant dialog needs to end. The White House, National Security Council and Department of State must take decisive action to secure my release.
President Biden, I have paid a high price for being an American citizen. A promise is a promise. The clock is ticking on getting this done. Please bring me home.
Thank you very much to my family, friends and supporters for your tireless efforts and for enduring this tiresome nonsense."
Friday, today, is Paul's 1,806th day as a Kremlin hostage. Every day he spends there is an injustice. We call on the U.S. government will do what is necessary, now, to bring Paul home.