The U.S. State Department called Tuesday for Russia to release Paul Whelan, who was detained by Russian authorities three years ago.
Whelan, 51, was in Russia as a tourist and was arrested at a Moscow hotel. He was convicted of espionage charges and is currently serving a 16-year sentence of hard labor at a prison camp in Mordovia.
The former U.S. Marine and former security executive denies the charges, which the U.S. State Department called “false.”
The State Department also called for the release of Trevor Reed, who is serving a nine-year sentence for allegedly assaulting Russian police officers after a night of drinking in Moscow in 2019. Reed, also a former Marine, said he does not remember the incident and pleaded not guilty.
Reed’s lawyers were critical about the harshness of the sentence.
In November, Reed reportedly went on a weeklong hunger strike to protest repeatedly being put in a “punitive isolation ward,” his lawyers said.
U.S. officials have said Russia is holding the two as bargaining chips for a possible prisoner swap with the U.S.
“Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken has been very clear about the need for Russia to release U.S. citizens Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed unconditionally and immediately so they can be home with their families,” the State Department said in a news release.