Paul Whelan Speaks Out After Griner's Release — Biden Insists It Was 'Not a Choice'


Retired Marine Paul Whelan is speaking out after the release of WNBA player Brittney Griner from Russian prison.

Whelan has been detained in Russia since 2018 after Russian authorities claimed he was involved in an intelligence operation.

“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,” he said in an exclusive phone call with CNN from the Russian penal colony where he is being held.

Whelan added, “I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”

While Whelan said he was happy for Griner’s release, he explained 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.”

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When asked whether it surprised him that he was not included in the swap for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, Whelan said he was.

According to Whelan, he was told because the Russians claimed he was a spy, “They’ve put me at a level higher than what they did with Trevor (Reed) and Brittney.”

He explained, “That raises a lot of concerns because none of it is true. And they’re trying to get out of United States, what the United States may not be able to provide, but this is basically political extortion.”

Acknowledging he has been placed in a different category by Griner, Whelan said, “They’ve always considered me to be at a higher level than other criminals of my sort and for whatever reason, I’m treated differently than another individual here from a Western country that’s also on a charge of espionage. So even though we’re both here for espionage, I’m treated much differently than he is, and my treatment is also much different than others held for espionage at other prisons.”

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Additionally, Whelan expressed his hope that President Joe Biden and his administration “would do everything they could to get me home, regardless of the price they might have to pay at this point.”

He added, “I would say that if a message could go to President Biden, that this is a precarious situation that needs to be resolved quickly.”

The retired marine has spoken to an administration official about the matter, but believes “that message really needs to go to people like the president so they understand personally what I’m dealing with and what we deal with in these foreign prisons and under these circumstances.”

Biden delivered remarks Thursday morning following Griner’s release and commented on Whelan’s case.

“Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case different than Brittney’s. And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up. We will never give up,” Biden said.

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The president also told the crowd “this was not a choice of which American to bring home.”

Sending a message to Whelan’s family, Biden said, “We’ll keep negotiating in good faith for Paul’s release. I guarantee that. I say that to the family. I guarantee you. I urge Russia to do the same to ensure that Paul’s health and humane treatment are maintained until we are able to bring him home.”

He added, “I don’t want any American to sit wrongfully detained one extra day if we can bring that person home.”

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