Paul Whelan inside the defendants' cage during a hearing in a Moscow court on Aug. 23, 2019. (Credit: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)

(CNN) -- American Paul Whelan, who remains imprisoned in Russia, said he was assaulted by another prisoner at his remote labor camp in Mordovia.

In an audio statement shared with CNN, Whelan noted that "he was assaulted by a 50-year-old Turkish prisoner who recently arrived at the jail and has anti-American leanings."

Whelan said he was working at a factory in the camp on Tuesday when the other prisoner hit him in the face "with a closed fist" and then tried to hit him "with an open hand."

"I got up to block the second punch, worried that I had sharp scissors in my hand that could be used as a weapon. Other prisoners prevented him from continuing to assault me while I left the area, looking for the guards," Whelan said. "There are no guards on the factory floor and it was quite difficult for me to find prison staff to help me," he added.

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Whelan said a prison doctor had treated him. In addition, according to Whelan, he reported the incident to the deputy warden and "the prison is taking the incident seriously."


"I'm asking to speak to the prosecutor to file charges for the assault," he said.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told CNN that they "are concerned by reports that Paul Whelan was assaulted by another prisoner at IK-17 on November 28."

"The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has been in contact with Paul by phone and we understand that he is receiving medical treatment following this incident," the spokesperson said.

"We call on Russia to ensure that Paul Whelan and all detained U.S. citizens are safe," he added. "We urge the Russian government to ensure fair treatment and adequate medical care for all U.S. citizens detained in Russia."

"Russia must immediately release Paul Whelan," the spokesperson continued.

Whelan's detention in Russia has been called unjust by the U.S. State Department. He has been imprisoned in Russia for almost five years.

Whelan's assault underscores his family's and his concerns that the longer he remains in prison, the greater the risk he will take.

Whelan told CNN in October that he pressed Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a phone call in August to make sure he wasn't left behind in Russia again, noting to him "that leaving me here the first time put a target on my back and leaving me here the second time basically signed a death warrant."

Whelan also told Blinken that "unless I get sent back (to the United States), it could be quite a challenge down the road, especially given my age and the type of work we have to do from a health and safety standpoint."

Whelan was not included in the prisoner swap that freed fellow wrongfully detained Americans Trevor Reed and Brittney Griner last year. U.S. officials have said the Russians refused to include him in those exchanges for Konstantin Yaroshenko and Viktor Bout, respectively.

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