Melvyn Levitsky discusses local man’s Russian imprisonment on WXYZ

January 9, 2019

The intrigue of espionage has hit close to home, as Novi man Paul Whelan was detained in Russia under the accusation of being a spy. Detroit ABC-affiliate WXYZ called upon Melvyn Levitsky, professor of policy and practice at the Ford School, to share his expertise to make better sense of the situation.

In the interview with Ross Jones, which aired January 8, 2019, Professor Levitsky draws parallels to an incident in the 1980s, when journalist Nick Daniloff was arrested and accused of espionage. Based on the available information, Levitsky believes that Whelan is not an agent, and instead posits that Russia intends to use Whelan as a bargaining chip for Maria Butina, a Russian agent who pled guilty of trying to influence the U.S. presidential election.

Levitsky concluded, “Unless the administration has changed its ways, we will do anything we can to get an American citizen that’s unjustly accused or unjustly put in jail, to get that person back to the United States."

Watch the interview on

The former ambassador to Brazil and current international policy and pratice professor, Melvyn Levitsky has an immensely prestigious career. An instructor at several major universities and recipient of numerous awards, Professor Levitsky has also served as a U.S. diplomat for 35 years and held positions on a number of international bodies as well.