Release of Paul Whelan, Novi man imprisoned in Russia delayed due to Ukrainian invasion, brother says

Paul Whelan has already spent almost 1,200 days in Russian prison on espionage charges that his family argues have no ground in reality.

Any hopes that a resolution to the Novi man's imprisonment would arrive soon evaporated last week after Russia formally announced an invasion of their European neighbor Ukraine, Whelan's brother said. 

The family had been waiting on a decision from a lawsuit that motioned for Paul to serve the remainder of his 16-year prison sentence in the U.S. 

But "as far as we know, it hasn't," said David Whelan.

"We also filed an appeal after it wasn't being considered. but as we understand it, the court has deferred to the ministry of justice and if that is going to go forward, the ministry of justice in Russia would have to speak to the Department of Justice in the United States," said the captive's brother.

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Paul was arrested in December 2018 during a visit to Moscow for a wedding. He was taken into custody Dec. 28 after Russian police say he was carrying a hard drive that held classified information. 

Paul said it was just a drive of personal photos. The former marine has maintained his innocence since his arrest.

MORE: Family of Novi man held in Russia accused of spying says his health is declining at prison camp

Paul's imprisonment drew strong rebukes from Michigan officials, including Haley Stevens who represents his district. President Joe Biden also discussed Paul's status with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2021.

Paul Whelan in Russian police custody.

Whatever status of his return prior to last week, Russia and the U.S.'s priorities are now firmly on the invasion of Ukraine, where hundreds of civilians have died and mentions of nuclear war are growing.