I've heard from a number of you, hoping to find out how Paul is doing since Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine began. As you can imagine, since his labor camp is a 13 hour drive to Russia's nearest occupation forces at Rostov-on-Don, Paul is somewhat insulated from Russian war crimes. Even the crash of the ruble is, for the moment, less of an impact on him than on "free" Russians. He has told our parents that other prisoners are experiencing problems replenishing their prison accounts and phone cards. A silver lining is that his US$ may go much further now with the ruble worth less than a penny. We are watching the impact of sanctions, expected retaliation by the Russian Federation government, and making what contingency plans we can to support him.
These plans hinge on the availability of the US Embassy in Moscow. Since Russian staff in Washington will have to leave at the end of their 3-year visas in June, we are expecting an equivalent number of Americans will be forced out from Moscow, regardless of how long they have been in Russia. There is also the more cataclysmic possibility that the US Embassy will have to close, Minsk, or shift their services, as they have in Ukraine. Hopefully, all Americans currently in Russia will be able to safely exit before they, too, are falsely arrested and held hostage like Paul.
[ Secretary Blinken statement about US Embassy in Belarus: Suspending Operations at U.S. Embassy Minsk and Change in Status for U.S. Embassy Moscow - U.S. Embassy in Belarus (usembassy.gov) ]
Paul's wrongful detention has always been about the Russian Federation's government extracting concessions from the U.S. government. Until now, it's never been clear exactly what those were. Media and others have suggested it might involve prisoner swaps or other exchanges between the two countries.
But the landscape has now changed: in order to get any sanctions relief, the Russian Federation must release Paul, and Trevor Reed, unconditionally. If the Russian Federation demands the concession of sanction removal, let Paul and Trevor's freedom be part of the price the Russian authorities pay in return. Our family will be expressing this view to members of Congress, the State Department, and the White House to ensure that Paul and Trevor are not left behind.
Paul's case is small in comparison to the horrors the Russian government is visiting on the Ukrainian people and Russia's own soldiers and citizens. But we are confident that Paul will not be forgotten in the myriad efforts underway by the U.S. government, already evidenced by yesterday's support from Ranking Member Risch of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Rep. Haley Stevens.
[Sen. Jim Risch, Senate Foreign Relations Committee: https://twitter.com/SenateForeign/status/1498728218316181504 ]
[Rep. Haley Stevens call for Paul and Trevor's cases to be raised during the State of the Union: https://twitter.com/RepHaleyStevens/status/1498423855945330691 ]