Updates

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Thank you for your interest to help Jimmy.

We don’t ask for anything from Jimmy’s friends, only from our government. Our focus is to do whatever we can to help our son and to keep you and other interested parties abreast of Jimmy’s status as well as any progress we make in getting him home. That can be done by visiting this website occasionally and look at the UPDATE and PRESS tabs for the latest.
 

If you are serious about helping, the best person you can write to in Washington is the following:

Deputy Assistant Secretary Philip T. Reeker

U.S. Department of State
Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
2201 C Street, N.W. - Room 6226
Washington, D.C. 20520

July 4, 2021: Jimmy called to advise us that the list of American prisoners being considered in a prisoner exchange has been increased to 24 prisoners and that he is quite certain his name is on the list of 24. He doesn't expect all 24 will be coming home at once and could take as long as 6 months. Our hope is that Jimmy will be home for Christmas and we will pray to that end.

​​June 16, 2021: FSIN transferred to the Foreign Ministry a list of 17 Americans in custody

 In the institutions of the Federal Penitentiary Service of the Russian Federation, 17 US citizens are currently being held. This list has been transferred to the Russian Foreign Ministry, a member of the Public Council in the service of Eva Merkacheva told Interfax.

"Nine of them are being held in colonies "including James V. Wilgus", eight in pre-trial detention centers," Merkacheva said. She did not rule out that the transfer of the list is associated with a possible exchange of prisoners between countries.

As expected, the topic of a possible exchange of prisoners between the Russian Federation and the United States will be touched upon at the meeting of the presidents of the two countries, which is taking place on Wednesday, June 16, in Geneva.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that he was ready to discuss with his American counterpart the possibility of exchanging prisoners held on the territory of the two countries, but at the same time spoke in favor of talking about concluding an appropriate agreement between the two countries.

 

June 15, 2021.

The probability of an agreement on the exchange of prisoners following the talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden, scheduled for June 16, is. However, it is not yet possible to predict what the exchange will be. This opinion in an interview with "Evening Moscow" was expressed by political scientists, commenting on Putin's statement in an interview with the American TV channel NBC.

Director of the Franklin Roosevelt Foundation for the Study of the United States at Moscow State University, Yuri Rogulev, said that there are many Russians imprisoned in America, as well as Americans serving sentences in Russia. And, of course, they are all convicted under different articles.

- We have a student who fought with the police and received a sentence (Trevor Reed - approx. "VM"), is an American spy (Paul Whelan — approx. "VM"). Different people and on different occasions sitting. Of ours in the United States - Bout (Russian businessman Viktor Bout, convicted in the United States - approx. "VM") and Yaroshenko (Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, serving time in an American prison — approx. "VM"), who are convicted of a crime in the United States," Rogulev said.

He also noted that the exchange of prisoners is a legally difficult matter. According to the expert, the terms of the convicts and the severity of their crimes are different, and "it is always easier to change a spy for a spy."

- Whether the courts, the judicial system will agree, I can't say. Not such a simple matter, — said Rogulev.

Historian-Americanist Ivan Kurilla, in turn, suggested that in the negotiations "they will remember Bout, but they do not want to give him away." The expert noted that there are many problems between Russia and the United States, but the topic of exchange is discussed most acutely.

"On the verge of war": what Putin and Biden will agree on June 16. "It looks like the Cold War and as if we are changing prisoners, which does not characterize the state of current Russian-American relations very well," the expert said.

Given that, he also noted, that the issue of prisoner exchange is on the agenda, it is likely that both sides are referring to one of the convicts.

- Since we agreed to include this issue on the agenda, then both sides mean someone... I don't want to guess, but I expect that probably someone will be exchanged. But I'm not sure of everyone they wanted. Probably, there are "principled" people in the lists, "Kurilla added.

14 June 2021, 14:18:    Putin allowed the exchange of prisoners between Russia and the United States

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he does not exclude the exchange of prisoners between Russia and the United States. The head of state said this in an interview with NBC News, a fragment of which was shown to Sky News on June 14.

At the same time, the Russian leader pointed out that many more Russians are detained in the United States than in Russia - Americans.

Answering the question about the Americans convicted in Russia - former Marine Trevor Reed and Paul Whelen - Putin pointed out that Reed was a "troublemaker" and a "drunkard" who started a fight, the material emphasizes.

On June 9, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Whelan could not be included in the list of citizens mutually transferred to his homeland to be served his sentence, since he was convicted under a particularly serious article. At the same time, the diplomat stressed that the Russian side constantly reminds the United States of its readiness to go the way of using the mechanism of the 1983 Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Convicted Persons. According to him, this is not an exchange, but a different format of interaction.

On May 20, US Secretary of State Blinken called on Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to release Whelan and Reed, convicted in Russia.

Earlier that month, Blinken, during a telephone conversation with Lavrov, noted that US President Joe Biden intends to resolutely protect his citizens and act in defense of his interests in response to Russia's policy, which allegedly harms Washington.

In January, the Russian Foreign Ministry reminded the United States that Whelan was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 16 years in prison, and Reed will spend nine years in prison for attacking law enforcement officers. So the department commented on the publications in the Western press about the alleged preparation of the exchange of citizens serving time between Moscow and Washington in both countries. Here is the actual link from the Russian newspaper:

 https://iz.ru/1178429/2021-06-14/putin-dopustil-obmen-zakliuchennymi-mezhdu-rossiei-i-ssha

June 10, 2021.On June 2, CNN interviewed Paul Whelan, the American being held in a Russian prison with Jimmy. On behalf of Jimmy and other Americans, Paul is pleading with President Biden to consummate a deal that will result in the release of all American prisoners in Russia. Here is a link to that interview which describes what they are going through and what they hope will happen: https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2021/06/02/paul-whelan-biden-putin-summit-chance-pkg-newday-ldn-vpx.cnn

 

May 20, 2021. 

Meetings are underway between Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the Arctic Meetings in Iceland. Among the topics to be discussed in private meetings will be the Americans being held in Russian prisons. Publicly they mention Paul Whalen who is with Jimmy, but privately Jimmy has been advised by the US Embassy personnel that an effort will be made to include Jimmy in these discussions.

 

05/19/2021 07:35 PM EDT: Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met today with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the margins of the Arctic Council Ministerial.  The Secretary noted that the United States sought a more stable and predictable relationship with Moscow.  To that end, Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov discussed Russia’s Arctic Council Chairmanship and the importance of cooperation given our shared stake in the region.  The Secretary also reiterated President Biden’s resolve to protect U.S. citizens and act firmly in defense of U.S. interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies.  The Secretary made clear that Russia should release American citizens Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed so they can return home to their families.

May 5, 2021: MOSCOW — Amid sinking relations, President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin appear to be seeking a June summit while Biden is in Europe for talks with allies. Biden is scheduled to attend a Group of Seven summit in Britain from June 11 to 13 and then travel to Brussels for E.U. talks and a NATO summit on June 14.

 

Russia’s Kommersant newspaper, citing anonymous sources, reported that the White House has proposed June 15 or 16 to meet Putin in a third country. Austria and Finland have offered to host. Putin aide Yury Ushakov told state media that the summit could happen in June, but no firm decision has been made. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that the Kremlin received Biden’s proposal for a summit “positively.”

If Blinken and Lavrov can work out the details, the Presidents will sign the agreement, hopefully with Jimmy included. Perhaps then Jimmy will awake from this nightmare and put his life and career back together again. We should know by the end June. You’re prayers are always welcome, but an appeal from you to Pres. Biden and Secretary Blinken could be persuasive enough to make the difference. If you need an address or email, contact jameslwilgus@gmail.com.

March 22, 2021.  We just received word that Jimmy has been released from solitary confinement after 118 consecutive days in solitary on charges of drug possession. It was an attempt by prison officials to keep Jimmy in prison forever by planting illegal drugs in a package mailed to him. His attorney looked into the matter and proved to the investigator this was a setup. Jimmy has been cleared of all allegations. 

March 4, 2021.  Our attorney visited Jimmy on March 4, 2020. Jimmy is still in solitary confinement. He read the messages sent by you. He thanks all of you for taking the time to write and for your prayers.  The attorney will be visiting again on March 18. If you want to write to Jimmy, email your letter to jameslwilgus@gmail.com for delivery to Jimmy. In his current situation, all he has to read are his letters, which he reads over and over.

Dear James and Bella,                                                                                                                   March 4, 2021

I just wanted to update you on our current activities on behalf of Jimmy. 

This week, we called and submitted a formal written request to the prison warden to speak on the phone with Jimmy, and to get an update on whether and why he is still in punitive isolation. 

We continue to follow-up with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on our protest to his treatment, including calls and emails. They have not yet formally responded, which is the usual case here.

We also have followed-up with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get an update from the Russian Ministry of Justice regarding the prisoner transfer. Again, they have no response at this time.

To end on a positive note, even if we are unable to get to talk with Jimmy by phone, we are planning a trip to see him in person in the coming weeks. We are in the early stages of planning but are aiming to see him in April.  

Sincerely,  Laura Keith- Vice Consul    Moscow ACS,  U.S. Embassy

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Jimmy’s attorney is going to write to the State Duma (A duma is a Russian assembly with advisory or legislative functions) of the Russian Federation to differentiate punishments for non-violent crimes from violent crimes against minors. At this time there is no such differentiation in Russian articles of punishment. In sentencing Jimmy, the Judge had no latitude and had to apply the law. Article 132 (b) 4 states that a charge of indecent exposure must be treated as a crime of sexual assault and rape if the victim is 14 years or younger. Her only latitude was the time of sentence which required 12 – 20 years. The Judge used her judgement and applied the lowest sentence. If this appeal is successful, the sentence could be changed to time served and Jimmy could be released and sent home.  We have authorized the attorney to proceed with this appeal and hope the Duma rules in Jimmy’s favor.

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January 11, 2021.  Jimmy is still in solitary confinement. He was placed in solitary on his birthday, December 4, 2020. That was the first time we were not able to wish him a happy birthday since he was born. Due to solitary, this was also the first time in his life we did not wish him a Merry Christmas or Happy New Year. As much as we are disappointed, we can only imagine how much Jimmy is suffering. Among other potential issues, he has now been totally isolated from any English speaking person for more than 5 weeks. We don't know why he was subjected to his longest period in solitary and, after several calls to the prison by the US Embassy, all we could  confirm is that he is in solitary. The Russian authorities would give no reason for this punishment or how long he would be confined.

It appears the Russian government is trying to break Jimmy’s spirit and we can only hope he will continue to fight through this effort. We know from phone conversations over the past 4 years of imprisonment, Jimmy always talked about getting through this crisis, remaining strong, and looking forward to getting back to rebuilding his career.

Jimmy knows he has certain rights, even in a Russian Labor Camp, as continuously reminded by the US Embassy, and has always fought for those rights. In 2018 he filed a Transfer of Prisoner application with the US Dept. of Justice and the Russian Ministry of Justice in accordance with a treaty between the two countries. The USDOJ reviewed the case and immediately approved his request. To date we have had no reply from the Russian MOJ, despite follow up letters from the USDOJ requesting a response. The Russians have no interest or incentive to entertain such a request. After all, prisoners provide free labor. Since the USDOJ cannot get a response, Jimmy decided to write letters to 10 different officials in Washington, DC as a follow up to letters written by us. After Jimmy spent limited funds buying stationary, envelopes and adding the proper postage, he gave the 10 letters to the prison administration to mail. The authorities must open them for translation to Russian so the authorities can monitor his thoughts. Jimmy inquired almost weekly as to when the letters were mailed. At the end of November he was told that all 10 letters were lost and never mailed. About a week later he was removed from the general population and placed in solitary confinement indefinitely. Just another example of the violations of Jimmy’s human rights.

We don’t know for sure why Jimmy was confined to solitary and look forward to the day he is able to call us and explain what happened. When he tells us we will post it here on TWNS. Thanks for your prayers and interest in Jimmy's welfare. Jim & Bella Wilgus