Paul was visited by Irish and US Embassy consular staff Wednesday (11/16). They made the drive out to Mordovia as they have repeatedly since he was transferred to IK-17 over 2 years go. They pass through Yavas, where Brittney Griner is now imprisoned, on the same road that passes IK-12, where Trevor Reed was held hostage, to get to Paul. The last US visit was in June.
Paul spoke to our parents yesterday about the visit and said that they discussed many of the same topics as he had with the UK Embassy staff last week. He seems to have found an equilibrium where he can survive without being worried about punishment or retaliation from guards. Paul told our parents he's picked up a few Russian words, as well as a few in Tajik and the languages of other prisoners at IK-17. Social grease and a survival resource.
As in the past, food, that Paul had requested that the US Embassy bring to supplement his meagre prison rations, was refused by the prison. The regulations have changed recently and canned food was banned. In a typical outcome, the prison allowed canned food but opened it all to see what was inside, so it is now all perishable. Then they denied other food that was non-perishable. Some prisoners are able to purchase local fresh fruits and vegetables but it requires access to a Russian bank account. Paul ends up bartering where he can for fresh food.
Some of you have noted a more positive tone in Russian media recently about the possibilities of an exchange. Deputy FM Ryabkov mentioned his hopes for Viktor Bout, although then also qualified that he doesn't know anything about anything since the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not actually involved in any discussions. Maybe he gets his news the same way I do, maybe he's just being self-deprecating. I appreciate you sharing when you see something; I read as much as I can but it's nice to know that other people are reading too.
No mention of the other prisoners that Ambassador Antonov has recently visited in the U.S.: Alexander Vinnik or Roman Seleznev. Vinnik has not yet been tried but Seleznev's omission is particularly baffling. One has to assume that his father, a long time Duma representative, doesn't have any more clout with the decision-makers in the Kremlin than the MFA does. Roman has another 19 years on his 27-year sentence and will be ready for retirement when he finally gets home.
Paul has now been a Russian hostage for nearly 4 years: 4 birthdays, now 4 Thanksgivings, and soon 4 Christmases. Embassy staff reported that he's hopeful about the concessions the U.S. government has offered. But an exchange is just one of three potential outcomes. Another is that the governments can't find common ground and nothing happens. And the third is what happened last April, when Paul was left behind.
As the lack of an exchange drags on, I'm increasingly concerned about how this will affect his ability to continue. It must be awfully hard to maintain hope in his position, knowing of the possibility of freedom, no matter how much stability he is able to carve out. And the possibility of an exchange has given him some hope, even thoughts to what he might have to do to restart his life. It will be devastating for him if there is not a resolution that sees him free, brings him home, with our family. We'll see what the next months and year bring. Hopefully it will be a homecoming.