Russian authorities said that former US Marine Paul Whelan, who is serving a prison sentence for espionage in Russia, was injured during an altercation with a fellow prisoner. He was reportedly attacked by a prisoner of Turkish origin.
Whelan is serving his sentence in Penal Colony No. 17 in Russia’s Mordovia region. According to the Federal Prison Service, A “Personal disagreement” Between Whelan and another inmate it led to “Conflict situation” In the prison workshop where Whelan was “Hit in the face with your hand.”
Correctional officers “Immediately” Officials said. They added that the American was then transferred to the medical ward to receive treatment “A bruise under the eye.” According to officials, the incident was recorded on surveillance cameras and is being investigated.
The prison authorities did not provide any additional details. But Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted a person familiar with the matter as saying that “Prisoner from Türkiye” Whelan was attacked for an unspecified reason “Political differences.”
CNN cited an audio statement from Whelan, in which he said it was Tuesday “He was assaulted by a 50-year-old Turkish prisoner, who recently arrived at the prison and has anti-American tendencies.” According to the statement, the inmate beat Whelan “With his closed fist” Then he tried to hit him with his “open hand.” Whelan went on to state that other prisoners eventually stopped the attacker, and that there were no guards at the factory when the fight occurred.
“I request to speak to the prosecutor to file assault charges.” Whelan said adding that “The prison takes the incident very seriously.”
A State Department spokesperson told CNN that the US Embassy in Moscow contacted Whelan by phone and understood “He is receiving medical treatment following this incident.” The spokesman urged Russia to ensure Whelan’s safety. Whelan’s Russian lawyer, Olga Karlova, told Interfax she was also in contact with him.
Whelan, who holds US, Irish, Canadian and British passports, was arrested in Moscow in December 2018 after accepting a flash drive containing classified documents from an undercover officer in Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).
He was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 16 years in prison in June 2020. Whelan denied the charges, while the US insisted the charges against him were politically motivated. Whelan’s name regularly appears in reports about possible prisoner exchanges between Moscow and Washington.