Whelan said he was glad Griner was released, but he told CNN, “I am very upset that more hasn’t been done to get me out, especially since it’s been four years since I was arrested.”
The family of Paul Whelan, a businessman and former Marine who is imprisoned in Russia on suspicion of spying, said it was told by the Biden administration in advance that he would not be part of the prisoner swap that freed U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner on Thursday.
In a prisoner swap between the White House and the Kremlin, the WNBA star was released from a notorious prison colony after nearly 10 months in Russian custody, President Biden said Thursday morning. Together with the State Department, he and his administration decided to free Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner’s safe return to the United States.
But at a press conference at the White House shortly after the news of Griner’s return, both Biden and the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s wife, Cherelle, made sure to bring up Paul Whelan, another American who was wrongfully detained in Russia and is still there.
Whelan was arrested in a Moscow hotel in December 2018 because people thought he was an American spy. He used to be a US Marine and then worked in security. He was later found guilty of espionage and given a 16-year prison sentence in Russia, with the possibility of serving time at a labor camp.
Paul Whelan’s brother’s reaction!
“I’m so glad Brittney Griner is on her way home,” Paul’s twin brother David Whelan said in a statement to ABC’s Jay O’Brien on Thursday. “As a family member of a Russian hostage, I can only imagine how happy she will be to see her family again, just in time for the holidays. There is no bigger win than letting someone go home after they were wrongfully jailed. The Biden Administration did the right thing by bringing Ms. Griner home and making a deal that could work instead of waiting for a deal that wasn’t going to happen.
Still, in his message, David said that he and his family were upset that the same thing couldn’t happen for his sibling, who has been held since 2018 on suspicion of spying.
David said, “Paul has worked so hard to make it through almost 4 years of this unfairness.” “His hopes rose when he heard that the US government was finally taking concrete steps toward his release. He had been worried about where he’d live when he got back to the U.S.”
A U.S. official said that Russia was only willing to talk about Griner and not about Paul. Even though Russia said they would only negotiate for Paul, the Biden administration is said to have made many offers to get him back to the United States.
“It was either bring home Brittney Griner or none of the Americans,” they said, adding that it was a “hard decision” for President Joe Biden to make.