In the same fashion that it maintained with Ms. Griner, the Biden administration considers Mr. Whelan comparable to a political hostage situation.
The Whelan family is ‘distraught.’
The release of Brittney Griner, a basketball star from the United States who had been detained in Russia, on Thursday drew focus to Paul Whelan, another American detained there; President Biden emphasized that the administration was still working to secure his release.
Mr. Whelan, a former Marine who later worked in corporate security, was detained and charged with espionage in a Moscow hotel in December 2018. In June 2020, he was convicted guilty of espionage that the US government claimed was fabricated.
Mr. Whelan told CNN on Thursday over the phone from the remote Russian prison colony where he is being held that he is “greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release” and that while he was happy that Ms. Griner had been released, “I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”
Whelan, a US, Irish, British, and Canadian citizen, got arrested in a Moscow hotel in December 2018 on suspicion of being involved in an espionage operation. He has vehemently denied the espionage charges that led to his 16-year prison sentence. Whelan has been serving his sentence in Mordovia, a labor camp eight hours by car from Moscow, where he told CNN in June 2021 that he had been working in a “sweatshop” garment factory.
News that Griner is coming home made Whelan’s family happy, but they also expressed their “devastation” at leaving Paul behind on Thursday.
“But we are concerned about Paul’s future,” Paul’s brother, David Whelan, said on “CNN This Morning.” It has been evident that the US has no concessions that the Russian government desires for Paul. As a result, I am still determining what is ahead of me.
According to David Whelan, the Biden administration alerted Whelan’s family before the Griner statement.
In an email, David Whelan voiced his family’s “devastation” at the news, stating they are increasingly fearful that Paul may not survive the balance of his sentence.
Senior US officials visited Whelan’s sister to “talk and speak through” the news when it became evident that Whelan would not be released with Griner, according to senior administration sources.
Paul Whelan expressed his anger in an official statement detained by his parents earlier this year, following the release of Trevor Reed, another American detained in Russia since 2019.
Why did I fall behind?
Whelan stated in April. I’m relieved that Trevor is back home with his family, but I’ve been imprisoned for 40 months on a phony espionage charge.
A Saudi-UAE Mediated prisoner swap
On Thursday, the Russian foreign ministry confirmed that Bout had left and returned to Russia. On Thursday, the government said that the prisoner exchange with Griner had “completed smoothly at Abu Dhabi Airport.”
According to an official involved in the conversation, the US chose to hold the exchange in Abu Dhabi. The UAE organized and donated to the location after learning that “Russia was delighted with it.”
According to a senior UAE official speaking to CNN, prisoner swaps were one of the issues discussed by Putin and UAE President Sheikh, popularly known as MBZ, during their October meeting in Russia. The UAE agreed to be helpful on the topic.
According to the official, the US has fully supported MBZ’s plans to raise the topic with Putin.
“At the time, there was criticism of the Putin meeting; yet, Griner was released from detention today partly because of that contact,” the official continued.
Biden thanked the UAE for its assistance with the exchange in a statement issued on Thursday.
In a joint statement, the UAE, & Saudi Arabia acknowledged their participation in the joint mediation efforts that resulted in the prisoner exchange, saying that the success of the mediation efforts “reflects the reciprocal and strong friendship that unites both countries with the United States of America and the Russian Federation.”
When asked about Saudi Arabia‘s role, US officials stated that several countries were involved.
“We have relied on partners around the world to work through this with us, to share their ideas with us, and to help us convince the Russians of the need to find answers to these kinds of issues, and I am convinced that we will do so in the future.” We value their assistance when it comes, said an administration representative.
Former Soviet military commander Bout, also known as the “Merchant of Death,” is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States after being found guilty of plotting to kill Americans, purchasing and exporting anti-aircraft missiles, and providing financial assistance to a terrorist group. Moscow slammed his 2012 sentence as “baseless and biased,” and Bout has maintained his innocence.
According to Bout’s American client Steve Zissou, who talked with CNN on Thursday, the prisoner swap between Griner and Bout was “fair.”
According to Zissou, Viktor Bout’s exchange for Brittney Griner, who has only been detained for a few months, is fair. “Given the 15 years, Viktor Bout has been in detention since the United States government targeted him in 2006, as I have suggested for some time,
Zissou stated that his legal team was told of the upcoming swap 24 hours in advance.