US presses Russia on 4-year anniversary of Paul Whelan’s detention

The Biden administration and those close to former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan’s case are marking the four-year anniversary of his detention in Russia.

Whelan has been detained in Russia for more than 1,400 days, since December 2018, over accusations of espionage, charges he denies.

He previously expressed frustration that “more has not been done” to release him upon news in early December that fellow detainee Brittney Griner was returning home.

“How do you mark such an awful milestone when there is no resolution in sight?” Whelan’s brother, David Whelan, said in a statement to The Hill on Wednesday.

“It is both awful and mundane, just another day that Paul has to suffer in a Russian labor colony for being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he shared.

He called it a “culmination of lost life – four years of missed birthdays, Christmases, and other experiences” while acknowledging it’s unclear if a resolution will come anytime soon.

“Paul and the Whelan family recently showed the entire country the meaning of generosity of spirit in celebrating a fellow American’s return while Russia continues its deplorable treatment of Paul as a bargaining chip,” President Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement on the anniversary.

Sullivan added that the U.S. “will not stop, we will not relent, we will not cease until all Americans can celebrate Paul’s return.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Whelan has been “suffering through an unfathomable ordeal” after being sentenced to 16 years in a Russian penal colony after a secret trial.

“His detention remains unacceptable, and we continue to press for his immediate release at every opportunity,” Blinken said, adding “our efforts to secure Paul’s release will not cease until he is back home with his family where he belongs.”

The White House has faced criticism over Whelan’s continued detention in Russia. Sen. James Risch (Idaho), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday on Twitter the Biden administration must do more to bring Whelan home.

Former Trump national security adviser Robert O’Brien previously said the Russians appeared committed to releasing Whelan and another imprisoned American to improve relations between Washington and Moscow following a meeting in October 2020.

He told The Hill the Russians reneged on the deal, which would have freed Whelan and Trevor Reed, after Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

The White House has said Russia was unwilling to include Whelan in the prisoner swap that secured the release of Griner, with Moscow insisting on a one-for-one deal to set free Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

When Biden announced Griner’s release in December, he said Russia continued to hold Whelan for “illegitimate reasons.”

“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.

Tags Antony Blinken Brittney Griner Brittney Griner David Whelan Jake Sullivan Joe Biden Paul Whelan Paul Whelan russia Vladimir Putin

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