(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — A Pittsburgh-area resident remains in Russian custody amid the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner.
The high-profile arrest and subsequent release of Griner brought public attention to the topic of Americans in Russian custody. At least three Americans are still detained in Russia, including former U.S. Marine, Paul Whelan, Marc Fogel and Sarah Krivanek.
Earlier this year, former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed was also released in a prisoner swap with Russia.
Whelan, a corporate security executive, traveled to Moscow in December 2018 for a wedding and was detained by Russian authorities on espionage charges.
In 2020, the former Marine received a 16-year prison sentence in what the U.S. has called a sham trial. The U.S. has determined his detention to be unlawful and criticized the Russian criminal allegations and court process as a sham.
The State Department said last week he had been transferred to a prison hospital in recent weeks, but has since been returned to the penal colony where he is serving his sentence.
A senior administration official said Thursday they believe the Russians are holding Whelan’s release to a higher bar than Griner’s because of the espionage charges.
Krivanek, 46, moved to Russia from Fresno, Calif., five years ago to teach at a Russian private school.
Last year, Krivanek was involved in a domestic abuse situation with her boyfriend and allegedly grabbed a knife to defend herself, nicking him slightly.
Krivanek was arrested by Russian authorities and detained for roughly a year despite her boyfriend retracting the charges.
She was released last month but detained again at a Moscow airport when she tried to leave the country, according to People magazine.
Krivanek is not incarcerated but is also not authorized to return home. She is waiting in a holding facility while she figures out how to leave Russia.
Fogel — a history teacher from Pittsburgh who taught the children of U.S. diplomats in Columbia, Venezuela, Oman, Malaysia, and Russia — was detained in Moscow in August 2021.
He was detained at the Sheremetyevo Airport with a small amount of medical marijuana prescribed for his chronic back pain.
In June 2022, he was sentenced to 14 years of hard labor in a Russian prison, a sentence usually reserved for large-scale drug smugglers.
U.S. Representative Mike Kelly weighed in on the release of Griner, and efforts to bring Pennsylvania native Marc Fogel home.
“I am pleased to hear the news that Brittney Griner was released this morning and is returning to the United States. However, I remain deeply disappointed that the Biden administration was not able to secure the release of Marc Fogel. I urge the administration to include Mr. Fogel in any future negotiations, and I am once again calling on the State Department to further designate Mr. Fogel as ‘wrongfully detained.’ He is serving 14 years for possessing 17 grams — or just over half an ounce — of medical marijuana. That is egregious, even under Russia’s current laws.
“This is a great day for the Griner family. I hope to see the Fogel family have the same reunion soon. To the Fogel family: we are not giving up on bringing Marc home.”U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA)
According to Rep. Kelly’s Office, in November 2022, Reps. Kelly, Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) and Glenn Thompson (R-PA) signed on as original cosponsors to a resolution urging the State Department to declare Mr. Fogel as “wrongfully detained.”
At the beginning of August, Rep. Reschenthaler led a letter to Secretary Antony Blinken urging the State Department to immediately designate Mr. Fogel as “wrongfully detained” and ensure he is included in any negotiations to bring Americans imprisoned in Russia home.
The federal government has not designated Fogel as wrongfully detained at this time.