US ‘deeply concerned’ about Whelan after week without contact

White House officials expressed concern on Wednesday about the condition of Paul Whelan, who is being detained in Russia, after his family said they have gone several days without hearing from him.

“Our embassy in Moscow has been working to understand exactly Paul’s condition and why his family hasn’t heard from him,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

“It is a concern. We’re all worried, very much worried about Paul, and about Brittney Griner as well. As we have said repeatedly, they shouldn’t be detained in the first place,” she added, referring to the WNBA star who has been detained since February.

Earlier Wednesday, national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that the administration has been working to get updates on Whelan’s condition but has so far been unsuccessful.

“That deeply concerns us and we certainly share the anxiety and the concern of the Whelan family,” he said.

Whelan’s family this week said they had not heard from him since Nov. 23, and they said it was unusual for him to fail to make contact on Thanksgiving and on his dad’s birthday.

Whelan is a former Marine who has been held in Russia since 2018 on spying charges that he vehemently denies. In 2020, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

The Biden administration maintains both Griner and Whelan are being wrongfully detained.

The Biden administration had reportedly floated a potential prisoner swap in which Griner and Whelan would be released in exchange for convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout. Officials have publicly confirmed that they offered an exchange but have not explicitly said if it involved Bout.

Tags Brittney Griner Brittney Griner John Kirby John Kirby Karine Jean-Pierre Paul Whelan Paul Whelan Russia United States Viktor Bout
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