Former US Marine Paul Whelan, who has been in prison in Russia for over four years and has recently been in bad health, told CNN he was frustrated that more was not done to secure his release. He spoke to CNN in an exclusive interview just hours after WNBA star Brittney Griner was freed on Thursday. Griner was exchanged for the convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as the Merchant of Death, who is a former K.G. Vladimir Putin is a personal friend, a B. officer and a personal friend.
He said he was pleased that Griner was released, but he said that he is greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release, especially since the four-year anniversary of my arrest is coming up. I was arrested for a crime that never occurred, he said in a phone call from the penal colony where he is being held in a remote part of Russia. I don't understand why I'm sitting here. After announcing Griner's release at the White House, Biden pledged that the US would never give up on Whelan, but gave no indication why he was not included in the prisoner swap. The US officials indicated that Russia had refused to negotiate his release.
Whelan was surprised that he had been left behind. He said that he 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.
Whelan was arrested in December 2018 by Russian authorities who claimed he was involved in an intelligence operation. In June 2020, Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Whelan's brother David told CNN that someone from the White House let him know what was going on with Griner. It's hard to process this in real time like we had to do last April when Paul was left behind, he said. I think it's clear that the US doesn't have any concessions the Russian government wants for Paul. The Kremlin is focused on parity, on equalizing things. The Biden administration has made numerous offers, including a visit by the former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson traveled to Moscow to make Whelan part of the prisoner swap. A US official said it was a choice to get Brittney or nothing and Biden had to make a difficult decision, but he felt it was a decision that Biden had to make.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who had been playing on a Russian basketball team for the last seven years, was arrested one week before Russia invaded Ukraine. She was later charged with nine years in prison for possessing less than a gram of cannabis oil.