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A Marine Corps veteran currently serving prison time in Russia for spying was attacked by a fellow inmate Tuesday.

Russia’s prison service on Wednesday confirmed the assault on Paul Whelan, but only after Whelan’s brother went public with news of it, Reuters reported.

Whelan, 53, who received a bad-conduct discharge from the Marines in 2008 after a court-martial, was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison after being convicted of espionage by a Russian court.

He has consistently denied the charges, and former CIA employees told The New York Times in 2019 that Whelan’s court martial would likely make him ineligible to be hired by the agency.

According to a statement from Dave Whelan, Paul Whelan’s brother, the incident took place in a “sewing workshop” in the high-security complex where he is being held.

“A new prisoner blocked part of the production line and Paul asked him to move out of the way,” Whelan said in the statement, according to Reuters. “After repeated requests, the prisoner hit Paul in the face, breaking Paul’s glasses in the process, and attempted to hit him a second time.”

In an audio statement cited by CNN, Paul Whelan said he was concerned because his attacker was holding a potentially deadly weapon at the time of the assault.

“I stood up to block the second hit, being concerned that he had sharp shears in his hand that could be used as a weapon. Other prisoners stopped him from further assault while I left the area, looking for guards,” Whelan said, according to CNN. “There are no guards on the factory floor and it was quite difficult for me to find prison staff to assist.”

The U.S. State Department used to occasion to call for Whelan’s release and, in the meantime, ensure his safety.

“We understand he is receiving medical treatment following this incident,” the department said in a statement to Reuters.

Dave Whelan said in his statement that he believed his brother had been targeted because bad feelings for Americans in Russia was “not uncommon among the other prisoners.”

In October, Paul Whelan told CNN that he was a marked man because of the U.S. “leaving me here.”

Whelan said then that he had told Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a phone call “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.”

Russian news agency Interfax said that the incident had been captured on surveillance footage that prison officials would review before reporting the “illegal actions” to the police.

Whelan was treated at the prison for an abrasion under one of his eyes. His attacker was also taken to the prison medical facility, but his condition was apparently not reported.

Interfax cited an unnamed source “familiar with the situation” as claiming that Whelan’s attacker was “a convict from Turkey” who assaulted the Marine Corps veteran “over political disagreements.”

The U.S. has repeatedly denied that Whelan was a spy.

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