Griner’s release raises fresh concerns about fate of Paul Whelan

Brittney Griner, an American star basketball player, was released by Russia. The United States welcomed her back with great joy.

However, when Joe Biden announced Griner’s release on Thursday, many asked: What about Paul Whelan? A US Navy veteran sentenced in 2020 to 16 year imprisonment in a Russian prison for espionage, Washington claims is false.

Biden administration regularly discussed Griner/Whelan cases together, stating that both US citizens were wrongfully arrested in Russia.

Griner, a twotime Olympic gold medalist, was released by the US in exchange for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer. Griner was serving a 25 year sentence in a US jail.

Two points were highlighted by U.S. officials Thursday as they addressed Whelan’s continued imprisonment: that Griner was not released at the expense of the former Marine, but that they will continue to push to have him released.

“While we have not yet succeeded in securing [Whelan’s] We won’t quit, release. We will never give up,” Biden said. “We remain in close contact with [his] family, the Whelan family, and my thoughts and prayers are with them today.”

Biden stated that Russia was handling Whelan’s matter differently for “illegitimate purposes,” referring specifically to the espionage claims against him. Whelan, who is currently serving his sentence in a Russian penal colonies, has strongly denied the allegations.

Whelan expresses disappointment

Antony Blinken, US Secretary-of-State, stated in July that Washington had made “substantial proposals” to Moscow for Griner and Whelan to be released. Several US media reported at the time that the US offered Bout to be released in exchange for the two Americans.

Biden also met Griner and Whelan’s families at the White House to update them on the administration’s efforts in returning the couple to America.

Whelan, who was detained in Russia in 2018, expressed his disappointment that he was not released from prison on Thursday.

“I am extremely disappointed that more was not done to secure my release, especially now that it has been four years since my arrest. Whelan stated that Whelan was arrested for a crime that never occurred. CNN In a telephone interview. “I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”

Griner-Bout was the second prisoner swap between Russia and the USA this year.

In exchange for Konstantin Yaroshenko’s release, Moscow released Trevor Reed (also a former US Marine) in April. Yaroshenko was currently serving a 20 year sentence in the US for drug possession.

On Thursday, Blinken compared the deal to free Reed to the deal to free Griner.

“This was the same situation we faced in April: we brought home Trevor Reed; we wanted to bring [Griner and Whelan] At the same time, I was at home. At that time, we were not able to do that,” the US secretary of state told reporters.

“At this time we were unable to secure Paul’s release. But going forward, we remained absolutely determined to do that.”

‘One or none’

Griner was a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), all-star player. In February, Russian authorities found vape cartridges containing marijuana oil in Griner’s luggage. This happened just days after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Griner’s detention was immediately criticized by the Biden administration. Her lawyers argued that the sentence was too harsh and incompatible with the severity of the crime.

Republican lawmakers in the US criticized Thursday’s prisoner trade, with Congressman Michael Waltz writing on Twitter: “Where are US Marine Paul Whelan, wrongfully detained for much longer by Russia? Celebrities over veterans?”

Lisa McClain, a congresswoman, also expressed concern at Bout’s release. Bout was a prolific Russian arms dealer once called the “Dealer of Death.”

“President Biden has just returned Russia its ‘Death Merchant’ while US Marine Paul Whelan is locked up in a Russian prison,” she said in a social media post. “We need justice for that [Whelan]. He You should also be on the plane home.

Blinken stated on Thursday, however that Washington was forced to choose between Griner or Whelan release because Moscow was not ready to release the ex Marine.

“The choice in this case was one or none, because unfortunately Russia has continued to see [Whelan’s] “They view him through the lense of sham-espionage charges, and treat him differently from Brittney Griner,” he said.

Whelan’s loved ones also supported the prisoner exchanging, calling it the right decision.

“As a relative of a Russian hostage, I can literally only imagine the joy [Griner] Paul Whelan’s brother David Whelan released a statement saying that his sister would have, be reunited to her loved ones, and in the time for holidays.

“There is no greater success as for an illegal detainee being released and allowed to go home.”

Cherelle Griner Griner, Griner’s spouse, also pledged to continue pushing for Whelan’s release. “I will continue to work to get every American home, including [Whelan]”Our thoughts are with your family today,” she said at Thursday’s White House.