Today is Paul's 1046th as a hostage of the Russian government. 1046 isn't a special number, nor is today, a day Paul is spending making buttonholes in a labor camp in Mordovia. The last 6 weeks or so since you last heard from me, following the US Ambassador's visit to Paul's prison colony in September, have been mundane. The same toil, the same pettiness. For example, the contents of the package the US Embassy staff brought Paul never all reached him.
Eventually, the food that supplements his prison diet was released last week. Then some books. Paul was asked to sign a statement that he was being treated well by the prison before he was given his mail. He declined, since that is a human rights violation, and eventually the prison staff relented. The blanket and wool watch cap Paul was hoping to have for the winter have disappeared into the mist of Russian corruption.
And so Paul waits. And we wait, along with all the other families with American citizens held hostage and wrongfully detained around the world. We wait for the Biden administration to take some action to bring our family members home. We joined with other families to sign an open letter to President Biden, wondering "how much longer our loved ones must endure their captivity...?" The letter was coordinated by the James Foley Foundation and we're grateful for their continuing support and advocacy. As Paul approaches his 3-year mark as a Russian hostage, we watch with hope at the increased contacts between the US and Russian Federation that were missing in the first 2 years of his wrongful detention. But there remains no sign or information to suggest that Paul is any closer to being released.
Paul's lawyer's appeal was dismissed in Nizhny Novgorod today, according to Russian media. The lawyers were appealing the Supreme Court of Mordovia's withholding of judgment on their petition for a transfer while input was sought from the Ministry of Justice. This was not a substantive decision about whether or not to allow a transfer, it was merely to review the lower court's decision to withhold judgment.
The only interesting note came from the prosecutor's revelation of the "secret" details of Paul's case. An open secret, since it had been in Russian media but not, as far as I know, spoken by a prosecutor until today. Prosecutor Sergei Lukoyanov stated that Paul was a US Department of Defense intelligence operative, given a list of student names. The Russian government has no grounds to keep him if they can't assert he worked for US intelligence and sought the list he was given. Of course, no government would leave an actual intelligence asset in a foreign prison, but the Russian prosecutors understand secrecy, not critical thinking.
We appreciate Mr. Zherebenkov and Ms. Karlova's ongoing efforts, and support their further appeals to higher courts in Russia and, eventually, to the European Court of Human Rights. While Russia routinely ignores decisions against it in human rights cases, we appreciate the lawyers' persistence. It seems inevitable, the longer Paul remains wrongfully detained, that the ongoing human rights abuses will need to be heard outside Russia.
And so we wait, with Paul, for the US government to act to bring about Paul's release and return him to our family. We hope it is before too many more Thanksgivings and Christmases pass us all by.