David Barnes Arrested: A Houston-area man has been held in Russia for months on “political grounds,” says Congressman Kevin Brady

More than six months after Texas father David Barnes was arrested by Russian authorities, his family is urging officials in Washington to do more to facilitate his release.

“David is a very caring and sensitive person,” his sister Carol Barnes told ABC News. “Every minute of every day I think about what he’s going through, the hell he’s living in and how unfair it is.”

The video above is from a previous report.

David has been held in a Moscow prison since January. He is one of several Americans being jailed in Russia, but unlike Brittney Griner, Paul Whelan or Marc Fogel, law enforcement in Moscow have claimed he was involved in criminal activity in the United States – an accusation that members of his confused family. American prosecutors and now his local congressman.

“Mr. Barnes was arrested and detained on political grounds, and my office is working with the State Department to get him back to Texas as soon as possible,” Rep. Kevin Brady said in a statement to ABC News. “We continue to urge the Biden administration to do everything in their power to resolve this situation and free Mr. Barnes.”

SEE ALSO: ‘Unfair Situation’: Family Pleads for Release of Texas Father Held in Russia on Child Abuse Allegations

David traveled to Moscow from the Houston suburbs in December 2021 to obtain legal clearance to either see his children or bring them home after his Russian ex-wife allegedly violated a court custody order and was dating them fled the United States was family.

In August 2020, a Montgomery County judge signed an order appointing David as the sole acting guardian of his children, giving him the right to decide his children’s primary residence, make decisions about their education, represent them in court proceedings, and to own their passports.

David’s ex-wife is now herself wanted in the US for obstructing child custody after she fled with the children in 2019.

“David Barnes traveled to Russia in an honest attempt to reunite his children who had been kidnapped by their mother and brought to Russia illegally,” Brady said. “This is a custody battle, not a criminal matter.”

David Barnes, seen here in a photo provided by his family, has been held in a Russian detention center since January.

Courtesy of Carol Barnes

On January 13, Russian investigators arrested David in Moscow and accused him of molesting his two children years earlier in Texas, according to translations of court documents.

Similar allegations against David were brought to Texas authorities by his now-ex-wife, Svetlana Koptyaeva, during their long and bitter divorce proceedings. The allegations were investigated in 2018 by the Department for Family and Protection Services, which found insufficient evidence to support them and closed the case with no findings of abuse or charges against David.

“At this time, there are no allegations from Montgomery County that we are aware of that Mr. Barnes could be arrested,” Kelly Blackburn of the Montgomery County Attorney’s Office told ABC News in May.

A spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office said in May that David had never been charged with child molestation there either.

According to emails between his family and the State Department, officials at the US Embassy in Moscow have met with David since his arrest. Brady’s comments, however, mark the first time an elected official has publicly stated that David’s detention in Russia is for “political purposes”.

Carol hopes the heightened awareness of her brother’s situation will motivate other officials to classify him as wrongly imprisoned, push for his release, or add him to a planned prisoner swap between Russia and the US

“Washington should be able to get its own American citizens home without so much red tape and we need to contact hundreds of people and get 1% response,” Carol said. “I mean someone is watching.”

In July, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a proposal that would require Russia to swap Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan for Viktor Bout, a Russian national convicted of illegal arms trafficking. Carol said she hadn’t heard anything about her brother being involved in a possible prisoner swap.

RELATED: US offers Russia deal aimed at bringing home WNBA star Brittney Griner, Paul Whelan

ABC News asked the White House in July whether it believed David was wrongly imprisoned and whether efforts had been made to secure his release, but referred all questions to the State Department.

“It’s just so frustrating,” Carol said. “I realize that we are dealing with Russians and it’s not that easy, but I don’t think they pay enough attention to it.”

A State Department spokesman wrote in a statement on July 26 that they continue to urge the Russian government to provide regular consular access and services to Americans detained in Russia.

SEE ALSO: Who Is Viktor Bout, Russian Arms Dealer Known As “Dealer Of Death” Touted For US Prisoner Exchange?

“We take seriously our responsibility to assist U.S. citizens abroad and are closely monitoring Mr. Barnes’ situation,” the spokesman said in part. “The department routinely monitors cases of all U.S. citizens detained abroad for indications of wrongful detention. Due to privacy concerns, we have no further comment at this time.”

David celebrated his 65th birthday in his Moscow detention center in July. His family does not know when they will see him again.

“I want him back. I love him. I miss him,” Carol said. “Right now there is no joy at all in my life.”

ABC News’ Shannon Crawford contributed to this report.

RELATED: ‘I Fought’: Trevor Reed Opens Up About Surviving Nearly 3 Years In Russian Prison

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Dais Johnston

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