U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan expressed his frustration with CNN today and told the network that he was “greatly disappointed” that Joe Biden secured a deal for America hating Brittany Griner’s release from a Russian prison and did not include a release for him in the prisoner swap program.
Whelan is currently serving his fourth year in a Russian prison since his arrest where he was sentenced to 16 years in a penal colony for a crime that both his family and he claimed never happened. The Canadian-born Marine veteran holds multiple citizenships- American, British, and Irish and was arrested in 2018 for alleged espionage and was sentenced to 16 years in prison two years later.
The marine was happy to see his fellow American, Griner released but expressed disappointment with the administration for leaving him behind. He shared his reaction with CNN State Department correspondent Jennifer Handler from his Russian prison on Thursday.
“I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release, especially as the four-year anniversary of my arrest is coming up. I was arrested for a crime that never occurred,” Whelan said. “I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”
“[Whelan] has been there nearly 4 years on espionage charges … He was very disappointed that he was left behind, though he was very happy that Brittney Griner got out.”
— CNN’s @jmhansler on Paul Whelan, who is still detained in Russia, reacting to Brittney Griner’s release pic.twitter.com/DkfzcPJL5z
— The Recount (@therecount) December 8, 2022
Whelan also told Hansler that in the weeks leading up to the prisoner’s swap agreement, when he learned about the release of Victor Bout, aka the “Merchant of Death” he had hoped that there was a way out for him along with Griner.
Whelan’s family also reacted to Griner’s release in a statement expressing that it was always great to see a wrongfully imprisoned person released, and they hope that one day, it would happen to their son.
Whelan’s brother also remarked that their family was warned ahead of the news that Paul was not part of the swap and “That early warning meant that our family has been able to mentally prepare for what is now a public disappointment for us. And a catastrophe for Paul. I do not know if he is aware yet, although he will surely learn from Russian media … I can’t even fathom how Paul will feel when he learns. Paul has worked so hard to survive nearly 4 years of this injustice. His hopes had soared with the knowledge that the US government was taking concrete steps for once towards his release. He’d been worrying about where he’d live when he got back to the U.S.”
The family made it clear that they do not intend to begrudge Griner being released and gaining her freedom. Noting that the two cases were separate and they always wish there would be a chance that Paul would be freed someday.
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