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Biden Admin Releases Statement On Four Year Anniversary Of U.S. Marine Veteran’s Wrongful Detention In Russia

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On Wednesday, the Biden administration’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan released a statement claiming that the Biden administration has been working relentlessly to get Russia to free U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan, who was arrested in December 2018 on baseless espionage charges, despite the administration prioritizing the release of a WNBA player from Russian captivity. 

Earlier this month, WNBA player Brittney Griner was released from Russian captivity in a prisoner exchange for a notorious Russian arms dealer. Griner, who had a criminal record in the United States for a domestic violence incident in 2015, was arrested in Russia in February for drug smuggling charges. The WNBA player was sentenced in August to nine years in prison.

U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan was arrested on baseless espionage charges more than three years before Griner’s arrest, and still remains in Russian captivity. 

“Today marks four years of wrongful detention in Russia for American Paul Whelan and, as the President and I have told the Whelan family, we will not stop, we will not relent, we will not cease until all Americans can celebrate Paul’s return,” the Biden administration’s statement said. “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. I am grateful for the partnership of the Whelan family as we work to reunite them with Paul. And I am thinking about them, and about Paul, on this day, especially.”

Democrat President Joe Biden’s decision to prioritize the release of a WNBA player over a U.S. Marine veteran drew bipartisan backlash.

“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,” Whelan told CNN from a Russian prison.

“I was arrested for a crime that never occurred. I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here,” he added.

Whelan’s brother, David Whelan, also responded to the news by saying that his family is “glad that Brittney Griner is on her way home,” but that the family “is still devastated” that Paul Whelan remains imprisoned.

“Despite the possibility that there might be an exchange without Paul, our family is still devastated,” David Whelan said. “I can’t even fathom how Paul will feel when he learns. Paul has worked so hard to survive nearly 4 years of this injustice. His hopes had soared with the knowledge that the US government was taking concrete steps for once towards his release. He’d been worrying about where he’d live when he got back to the U.S.”

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