Voz media US Voz.us

Paul Whelan is "greatly disappointed that more was not done to secure (his) release"

Whelan was in the Marine Corps, and was deployed to Iraq in 2004. He was accused of espionage.

Paul Whelan, ex marine preso en Rusia

(Captura de video/ EuroNews)

Published by

The White House announced on Thursday that star WNBA player Brittney Griner was released in a prisoner exchange with Russia. This once again draws attention to the case of former Marine Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Russia on espionage charges since 2018. According to Whelan's family, this is the second time this year that the United States has succeeded in freeing a prisoner unjustly detained in Russia, while Whelan remains imprisoned there.

The release of the WNBA player awakens Whelan's feelings of betrayal by his own country. In an interview with CNN from the Russian prison where Whelan is being held, Whelan said, "I have nothing against Brittney, but I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release. I was arrested for a crime that never occurred," said the 52-year-old. "I don't understand why I'm still sitting here. I was led to believe that things were moving in the right direction and that the governments were negotiating and that something would happen fairly soon."

Griner's case also received much more media attention than Whelan's because of her status as a star player and Olympic gold medalist. However, Whelan has been detained longer, and Thursday's announcement, while celebrated by many, raises questions about why the U.S. was able to release Griner but not Whelan.

Griner was arrested in February on charges of smuggling vape cartridges containing CBD oil into Russia. She was convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison. Last Thursday, she was released in exchange for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who was serving a 25-year sentence on charges related to arms trafficking.

Higher bar for Whelan release

Whelan was a corporate security executive who was convicted on espionage charges in 2018 and two years later was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Although the U.S. government claims his detention is illegal and they are demanding his release, they believe the Russians are setting a higher bar for Whelan's release than for any other Western prisoner accused of espionage charges.

"I would say that if a message could go to President Biden, that this is a precarious situation that needs to be resolved quickly," he told CNN. "My bags are packed. I'm ready to go home. I just need an airplane to come and get me." It's quite obvious that I am being held hostage," Whelan added.

The Biden administration has been trying for the past several months to negotiate a deal that would allow the joint release of Griner and Whelan, however, Russia rejects all attempts to free Whelan.

"This was not a situation where we had a choice of which American to bring home. It was a choice between bringing home one particular American, Brittney Griner, or bringing home none," a Biden administration official said in a call with reporters shortly after Griner's release was made public.