Blinken spoke with detained American Paul Whelan on Monday

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Monday with Paul Whelan, an American who has been detained in Russia for more than five years, the top US diplomat said Tuesday.

“Our intensive efforts to bring Paul home continue every single day. And they will until he and Evan Gershkovich and every other American wrongfully detained is back with their loved ones,” Blinken said at an event on hostage diplomacy at the Wilson Center.

State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said Tuesday that Blinken “assured Paul Whelan, as he has in his previous calls, that we’re with you. We have not forgotten you. We continue to work to try to secure your release and we will continue to work to try to secure your release.”

“Your release is a top priority, not just for the secretary, but for President Biden as well,” Miller said.

This is at least the third time the top US diplomat has spoken by phone with the ex-Marine, who has been declared wrongfully detained by the US State Department. The two also spoke in August 2023 and December 2022.

Whelan told CNN that in the August call, he told Blinken “point blank that leaving me here the first time painted a target on my back and leaving me here the second time basically signed a death warrant.”

Whelan has consistently urged the Biden administration to do its utmost to secure his release, expressing frustration at being left behind in two prior prisoner swaps with Russia. The US has said Russian officials refused to negotiate for his release in those swaps.

On the fifth anniversary of his detention, Whelan called on President Joe Biden to “please use every resource available to secure my release as you would do if your own son had been taken hostage.”

“I’m more than past ready to return home and I’m counting on the US government to come for me and soon. The time is now to take decisive action and bring this debacle to a close,” Whelan told CNN from his prison camp in Mordovia.

In the more than half a dozen phone conversations Whelan has had with CNN, he has expressed both confidence that the US government is working to secure his release and immense frustration that those efforts have not yielded success.

Miller reiterated on Monday that the US has “put a significant offer on the table” to try to secure Whelan and Gershkovich’s release.

“In fact, more than once we have put offers on the table to secure their release, and we will continue to engage to try to pursue, or try to obtain their release,” he said at a press briefing.

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