US envoy to Russia visits detained American Paul Whelan in prison- embassy

Verdict hearing of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was detained and accused of espionage, in Moscow

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy on Thursday visited American citizen Paul Whelan in the prison he has been held in Mordovia in eastern Russia, the U.S. embassy said.

"Paul has been wrongfully detained in Russia for more than 4 years, and his release remains an absolute priority. The U.S. government will continue to engage Russian authorities on his case so Paul can come home as soon as possible," the embassy said in a tweet.

Whelan, a former U.S. marine, was arrested in December 2018, held for 18 months in Lefortovo prison in Moscow and jailed for 16 years in June 2020 on spying charges. He has denied the accusations.

The United States has designated Whelan as "wrongfully detained", a term that effectively says the charges are bogus and the case is politically driven.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk)