Day 1611 - Paul Whelan - IK-17 Mordovia Russia - May 27, 2023 - IK-17 Retaliates For Non-Russia Today Participation

The people hiring for Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia leadership are clearly not aiming very high.  The IK-17 deputy warden and the prison's head of security both retaliated against Paul on Friday.  As Paul recounted it to our parents:

Today, May 26th , the Deputy Warden and the Head of Internal Security at the prison took my gear bags, dumped the contents on the floor, and trampled everything with their boots.  They  stole ushankas I had made for myself as well as two cardigans I had repaired and used to stay warm.  The two men took rubber bands off my packages of letters and scattered them, and trampled over my clean clothes and uniforms with their muddy boots.

Paul did not specify to our parents the individuals' names.  Those of you who have followed this case already know that the former warden, Vladimir Denisov, and former deputy warden, Alexander Shukshin, were arrested and convicted of corruption during Paul's detention.  So someone among Ivan Zhuravlev, Denis Kupchikhin, Viktor Shulyaev, or Denis Porshin seems to be following in their footsteps.  If I had to guess, Russia Today promised them a bribe to have Paul participate and it wasn't paid when Paul refused to speak to the Russia Today video crew.  What Paul is asking for:

I am asking for the Prison Service and Prosecutor to investigate this conduct, and for the Foreign Ministry to ensure my personal safety.  This action occurred in retaliation for refusing, multiple times, to be interviewed by RT at the request of the Russian Government.

I have forwarded a request to the Prisoner Ombudsman for Mordovia, and have also filed a complaint with the Prosecution Service in Mordovia (appeal ID_013R_001457), which I expect they'll both receive on Monday.  Whoever these IK-17 individuals are, they are violating FSIN regulation 295.  One might have thought IK-17 had just a few bad apples but the barrel seems to be full of worms.  Paul's complaints have also been forwarded to the State Department for them to raise with their Russian counterparts.

Alas for the greased palms, the Russia Today propaganda hit didn't go very well, as Paul related it to our parents.  While Paul was polite and the camera crew followed him around the camp, he refused to engage with the questions they asked. Again, according to Paul:

There were 2 cameramen, 2 reporters, as well as prison officials.  They took photos and video of IK-17 [on Tuesday, May 23d] and attempted to focus on me and interview me.  They followed me around the prison, both at prisoner formation and in the factory.  This went on for several hours and they kept bugging me when I said I did not want to participate.  I had told the British Embassy staff that I did not want to participate [David: apparently the Embassy staff relayed that message to the prison administration] and I submitted a letter to the prison administration saying I did not want to participate.

Paul was visited by the British Embassy (and perhaps by the British Ambassador, Deborah Bronnert) on May 16th. I suspect it was during that visit that Paul shared his concerns about the RT interview attempt.

Unfortunately, it looks like Paul is going to be subjected to these sorts of personal and human rights abuses for some time to come.  The Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs said that the White House was currently "trying to get Paul and Evan [Gershkovich] released together.  That's going to be what we're striving for."  The timeline Mr. Carstens outlines throws any possible effort to bring Paul home out to 2024 at the earliest, assuming the Russian government moves as slowly in Mr. Gershkovich's case as it has done with so many other espionage cases it has cleared in the past few years: Zimina and Antonets, Berg, Safronov, Whelan, Tsurkan, etc.  18 months is the time allowed from arrest to trial, which has been one constant in the Kremlin's hostage-taking: there must be a trial before anything else occurs.  Perhaps the White House thinks that the Kremlin will discover a sense of goodwill.  But its recent threats about "consequences" for ongoing negative reporting suggests otherwise.  It is disappointing to think that Paul's case is going on the back burner for another year.