Paul spoke with our parents yesterday [7/8/2020]. He called at 4:30am Eastern and they spoke for about 30 minutes. It was the first phone call since April, as the prison had denied him calls for the past two months despite Judge Andrei Suvorov's order.
Our news about Paul - his health, his trial, his life in prison - has largely been what gets reported in the Russian media. Paul has not had a consular visit since February. Letters Paul sends do not leave the prison for months. Our family has not received a letter from Paul since before March.
As Paul explained on his call, he had complained to independent prison monitors on their recent visit that he had not been receiving letters either, despite knowing the letters had been hand-delivered by consular staff to the prison. That appears to have shaken loose 170 letters the prison had been withholding from him. They have not yet delivered the English-language books our family mailed to the prison.
The US Embassy received two letters from Paul last week, one dated from March and one dated in April before his emergency surgery. They said Paul remained hopeful that his freedom was a topic of discussion among the governments involved. This week's phone call was helpful for our family in filling in a bit of the gap of the last 2.5 months since that most recent letter.
Paul asked about our parents and coronavirus. He gets little news and was worried about the lockdown and how they were doing. He shared some anecdotes from his trial and a recent visit by a prosecutor to the prison.
Paul has heard from Russians that there is talk of a trade. It's not clear who, although his lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov was quoted in media talking about it. But whatever trial balloon Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova was floating about trades was shot down by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week.
For now, Paul remains at Lefortovo. As his lawyers have said, though, Lefortovo is a pre-trial detention facility. Russian law requires notification of relatives when a prisoner is sent to a colony and so we are awaiting that information now that Paul's 16-year sentence has started [7/3/2020].
As US Ambassador John Sullivan reiterated in an interview on July 3, Paul Whelan is just one of many issues shared by the US and Russian nations. We hope that, as the US and Russian Federation governments meet in the coming months about those issues, that Paul remains an item of discussion. If there is an interest in rebuilding and strengthening the relationship between the two countries, releasing Paul Whelan would be a step in the right direction.
[Tatyana Moskalkova (confidential trades): https://tass.ru/obschestvo/8804785 ]
[Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov (no trades): https://www.interfax.ru/russia/715917 ]
[Olga Karlova (Paul awaits being sent to colony: https://tass.ru/proisshestviya/8876151 ]
[Article 394, §1: "Российской Федерации извещает одного из близких родственников или родственников осужденного о том, куда он направляется для отбывания наказания."
[Ambassador Sullivan July 3 interview: https://ru.usembassy.gov/ambassador-john-j-sullivans-interview-with-rbc-tv/ ]