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Washington, D.C. – House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul spoke on the House Floor in support of passing H.Res. 272, Calling on the Government of the Russian Federation to immediately release United States citizen Paul Whelan.


– Chairman McCaul delivered the following remarks –

On December 28, 2018, U.S. citizen and Marine Corps veteran Paul Whelan was wrongfully arrested in Moscow and charged with espionage. This is just one of many examples where an American is used as political pawn by the Kremlin – where they disguise hostility and human rights abuses as “justice.” Paul was held in pretrial detention for 19 months, and on June 15, 2020, he was sentenced to 16 years in a Russian labor camp. Paul was never provided with any real evidence of his guilt. Defense witnesses were excluded, and he was denied a fair trial, including the opportunity to defend himself properly, or even communicate with his family.

Last month, on May 16t, Paul reached his 1600th day illegally being held hostage in the Russian Federation for a crime he didn’t commit. Mr. Speaker, Paul is innocent, yet he remains behind bars to this day. Since his illegal incarceration, Paul has not received adequate medical care and he has been denied regular access to his attorney. Paul has been designated as “wrongfully detained” by the U.S. State Department.

U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan accurately described Paul’s wrongful conviction as “a mockery of justice.” Make no mistake, there is no such thing as justice in a country that is controlled by a despot.

This resolution shows we have not forgotten – and never will forget – Paul. And, that we will keep advocating for his immediate release. The U.S. Congress will not sit by as Americans are held hostage by the war criminal in the Kremlin. We will not rest until Paul and every single wrongfully detained American is home safely with their families.

During consideration of the prior measure, we discussed Russia’s wrongful detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. Another politically motivated imprisonment I must mention is Vladimir Kara-Murza, a legal U.S. Permanent Resident, twice poisoned by the Kremlin. He is a relentless advocate for democracy and human rights, and was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison for his criticism of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Sadly, that is what happens when you contradict the state-run media in a totalitarian state. His reward for pursuing the truth and standing up by exposing Putin’s brutality and corruption was imprisonment.

The vengeance of the Kremlin knows no bounds. Putin must stop using Cold War tactics to target innocent Americans as diplomatic pawns. I call for the immediate release of all Americans detained abroad.

I strongly urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this resolution so Paul and his family know that the U.S. Congress stands with them, with one voice – republican and democrat, chairman and ranking member –and will do everything in our power to make sure Paul is returned safely to his home and to his family.

I reserve the balance of my time.