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Family of Michigan man held in Russia hopes Biden-Putin summit could bring him freedom

paul whelan standing in front of a body of water
Whelan family

The family of a Michigan man held in Russia say his release could hinge on this week’s summit between Presidents Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Former United States Marine Paul Whelan was charged with espionage and sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison.

Russian officials arrested Whelan in December of 2018 claiming he possessed state secrets. Whelan says he thought they were vacation photos.

He was convicted despite no hard evidence with some officials floating the idea of him becoming part of a prisoner exchange.

Biden administration officials say they discussed the release of Whelan and another former Marine with Russian officials last month.

Now Russian media quotes a Kremlin spokesperson saying the issue of American detainees “could be touched upon” during the summit between Biden and Putin.

Whelan’s family says his attorneys in Russia have also unexpectedly raised the possibility of extraditing him to complete his prison sentence in the U.S.

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