Nov 29 (Reuters) - Former U.S. marine Paul Whelan has been attacked by another inmate in a Russian prison where he is serving out a term on espionage charges he denies, his brother has said in a statement.
Whelan was punched in the face and forced to defend himself at a sewing workshop in a penal colony in Russia's Mordovia region when he tried and failed to get another inmate to move.
"A new prisoner blocked part of the production line and Paul asked him to move out of the way. 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," Dave Whelan, his brother, said in a statement.
"Paul stood up to block the second hit and other prisoners intervened to prevent the prisoner continuing the attack on Paul."
Dave Whelan said he thought his brother was a target because he was an American and anti-American sentiment was "not uncommon among the other prisoners."
"Paul says he believes the prison administration is taking the attack seriously," he said.
Arrested in 2018 in Russia, Paul Whelan was convicted of espionage in 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in a facility in Mordovia, a Russian region southeast of Moscow.
Both Whelan and the U.S. government have denied that he is a spy. (Reporting by Andrew Osborn Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)