State Department demands the release of two Americans detained in Russia

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The US State Department on Tuesday asked Russia to release Paul Whelan, who was detained by Russian authorities just three years ago.

Whelan, 51, was in Russia as a tourist when he was arrested at a Moscow hotel. He was convicted of espionage charges and is currently serving a 16-year forced labor sentence in a prison camp in Mordovia.

The former US Marine and former security executive denies the charges, which the US Foreign Ministry has been calling it “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 no recalls the incident and pleaded not guilty.

Reed’s lawyers criticized the harsh sentence.

In November, Reed reportedly went on a week-long hunger strike to protest being repeatedly held in a “punitive isolation room,” his lawyers said.

US officials maintain that Russia is holding both of them as bargaining chips for a possible prisoner swap with the United States.

“The Secretary [de Estado, Antony] Blinken has been very clear about the need for Russia to release American citizens Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed immediately and unconditionally so that they can be at home with their families, “the State Department said in a press release.

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