Calls for State Department to Designate Fogel as “Wrongfully Detained” and to Work for Immediate Release
U.S. SENATE – U.S. Senator Steve Daines today delivered remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate honoring Marc Fogel, a U.S. citizen who has been wrongfully detained in Russia since August 2021, and called for his immediate release. Daines has been working closely with Fogel’s family members in Montana to ensure the timely release of Mr. Fogel.
Watch the full floor speech HERE.
Daines’ remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I’d like to use my time today to raise awareness about an important issue—actually—an important person. His name is Marc Fogel.
“Marc is a beloved father and husband, he’s also a son, brother and uncle. Over the course of his life, he’s been a formative mentor to many young minds. Marc Fogel spent 35 years teaching American history at American international schools around the world, most recently in Moscow. But after dedicating so much of his life to the service of others, he is currently detained in a Russian labor camp.
“On August 14, 2021, as Marc returned to Russia for one final year of teaching before a much-deserved retirement, he was arrested in a Moscow airport for carrying about half an ounce of medical marijuana in his luggage.
“Marc had been prescribed the medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids to manage his chronic pain after undergoing multiple back surgeries, including a spinal fusion, and various other challenging, painful procedures.
“Marc did not think that this health care decision would cost him his freedom, and maybe even his life. But following his arrest, a Russian court convicted Marc of ‘large-scale drugs smuggling’ and sentenced him to 14 years in a maximum-security penal colony. He’s been there ever since.
“In 2021, the same year of Marc’s arrest, the U.S. State Department described the conditions in Russian prisons and detention centers as, quote, ‘often harsh and life threatening.’
“They reported overcrowding, abuse by guards and inmates, limited access to health care, food shortages and inadequate sanitation as common occurrences—many practices that most Americans can’t even imagine.
“Considering the inhumane and harsh treatment reported in these centers, and especially given the health challenges Marc was already facing upon his arrest, Marc’s family now fears he won’t survive his sentence.
“This is an injustice at the highest level and it must not be tolerated by our government. It is important to recognize that Marc is not the only American illegally detained abroad. U.S. Marine Paul Whelan and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich are both still trapped in Russian prisons as well. But while all three of these men are wrongfully detained in Russia, only Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich have been recognized as wrongfully detained by the State Department.
“The State Department considers a formal wrongful detention status one of the first steps to get an American detained abroad home. This determination mobilizes multiple U.S. agencies to work with the State Department and the family of the detained to secure the prisoner’s release. There are currently over 50 American citizens the State Department lists as wrongfully detained in Russia, China, Iran and Venezuela.
“However, despite being unjustly detained for the last nearly two years with no end in sight, Marc is still not designated as wrongfully detained by the State Department. You may recall the Biden administration’s high-profile negotiation to bring WNBA star Britney Griner home after she was detained in Russia just after Fogel over a similar drug related offense. Ms. Griner is, thankfully, home.
“One of the key differences between Britney Griner and Marc Fogel’s cases is that less than three months after Griner’s arrest the State Department classified her as wrongly detained. Fogel deserves the same justice, and we should be using every tool at our disposal to bring him home. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know some of Marc’s family, some of whom are Montanans. They have been his fierce advocates here stateside.
“They fear they will never see their brother’s face again, or hear their father’s voice. We cannot let that happen. Working alongside the Fogel family, I’ve also teamed up with President Obama’s U.S. Ambassador to Russia Mike McFaul, my former Bozeman High debate partner, whose son was actually a student of Marc Fogel, to implore the State Department to finally declare Marc as wrongfully detained.
“This week, I also worked with colleagues across the aisle to introduce a resolution highlighting the unjust and disproportionate criminal sentence by Russia and calling for the immediate release of Mr. Fogel.
“Time is of the essence. Tomorrow is Marc’s 62nd birthday. But instead of celebrating with his friends and family, he will be spending it illegally detained in a Russian labor camp. No American should have to endure this type of injustice.
“It’s time the country, and the world, know about Mr. Fogel’s case, and I urge the administration to help bring this American back home once again. Thank you.”
Yesterday, Senator Daines introduced a bipartisan resolution demanding Russia release wrongfully detained Marc Fogel.
In June, Senator Daines sent a letter with former U.S. ambassador to Russia Mike McFaul to Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling on the State Department to deem Marc Fogel as wrongfully detained and prioritize securing his release from Russia.