(NewsNation) — Elizabeth Whelan told “Elizabeth Vargas Reports” that standing up to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and pleading for her brother’s freedom was “a good moment.”
“I think that they were surprised that we had done that. It’s not typical for a family member to suddenly be in that situation,” Whelan told NewsNation host Elizabeth Vargas.
The sister of the former United States Marine imprisoned in Russia spoke Monday ahead of a United Nations Security Council meeting. Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which has a rotating monthly presidency. This month, Russia chaired.
“I no longer know what my brother looks like,” Elizabeth Whelan said Monday. “The Paul Whelan that we see on TV and in the news — that’s my brother before he was taken captive.”
Later, during the meeting, U.S. Envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield pointed to Elizabeth Whelan and told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to “look into (Elizabeth Whelan’s) eyes and see her suffering.”
“I want you to see what it’s like for you to miss your brother for four years,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
“To see us there. To see us standing up for him. I think he realizes we’re all in the fight. We are all trying to get him home,” Elizabeth Whelan told Vargas that Paul was actually able to watch her speech on Russian television,” Elizabeth Whelan told Vargas. “I’m not sure what impact it will make, but I do believe the pressure that we’re all applying will eventually bear some fruit.”
You can watch the full interview with Elizabeth Whelan in the player above.
Paul Whelan was convicted in a Moscow court of espionage and sentenced to 16 years imprisonment. He was initially held in a Russian correctional colony before he was moved to a high-security prison in 2020. Since his arrest in 2018, his family hasn’t been able to see him.
At the time of his arrest, Paul Whelan was working as the director of global security and investigations for an international automotive parts manufacturer based in Michigan.
Whelan had been in Moscow to attend the wedding of a fellow former marine.
According to Russian officials, Whelan handed a Russian citizen a USB drive containing a list of all the employees at a classified security agency.
The U.S. calls the charges “baseless.” U.S. officials have said Russia refused to negotiate a trade for Paul Whelan.
A State Department spokesperson told NewsNatoin the U.S. has made a proposal for Paul Whelan’s release. They encourage Russia to move on the offer and let Paul Whelan come home — something the department said remains a top priority.