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No information on Paul Whelan after Brittney Griner exchange with Russia

The sister of the American marine and current prisoner in Russian custody seeks an explanation from Biden administration

Paul Whelan, ex marine preso en Rusia

(Captura de video/ EuroNews)

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Paul Whelan's case has been on hold since last July, when negotiations for the extradition of Brittney Griner began. His family has asked for an update, as the Griner case was handled surprisingly quickly. Whelan has been imprisoned since 2018, accused by Russia of espionage. In 2020 he was sentenced to 16 years of hard labor in a Russian prison. The family of the prisoner questions the effectiveness of the efforts made by the U.S. government.

Paul Whelan's sister, Elizabeth, told CBS that she wants answers. She says that despite speaking with Biden last week, she has gotten little information and calls for faster action. It has now been four years since his arrest.

Elizabeth Whelan, hermana del reo Paul Whelan, pide que se aceleren los trámites de extradición.

Paul Whelan - Hermana denuncia en Newsmax

Comparison with the Brittney Griner case

While Paul Whelan continues to serve time in Russia, Brittney Griner is back home. On the contrary, she only spent 10 months in Russian prisons, and diplomatic management seemed to be particularly effective.

The basketball player, who was sentenced by Russia to nine years in prison for drug trafficking, arrived in the U.S. on Dec. 9. Griner was detained in February at Moscow Airport for carrying cannabis oil in her suitcase, a product banned in Russia.

Griner was exchanged for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. Paul Whelan was left out of this exchange, so he remains incarcerated after spending nearly four years in Russian custody. The Griner exchange, much criticized for being an unfair trade, has once again put the spotlight on the Biden administration's diplomatic management.

Karine Jean Pierre's explanations

The White House spokeswoman wanted to justify the exchange of Russian trafficker Victor Bout with Brittney Griner. She maintains that Russia never allowed Paul Whelan's name to be brought to the table.

"It was a choice between bringing home one particular American, Brittney Griner, or not bringing home any at all," a source close to the White House has said. The White House says Russia flatly refused to release Paul Whelan because of his military background and because of espionage-related charges.

Paul Whelan himself said he felt "betrayed" by his country, given the failure of negotiations for his release.