Hours after President Joe Biden announced at the White House Thursday, December 8, that US WNBA star Brittney Griner was freed from a Russian prison, former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who has been imprisoned by the Kremlin on espionage charges since 2018, expressed his frustration on not having been brought home.
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“I was arrested for a crime that never occurred. I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here. I 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,” he said.
He was worried about what might happen to him because he was considered in a different category than Griner. “The Russians have always said so,” he 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.”
However, Whelan is not giving up hope. He still believes 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.” “I would say that if a message could go to President Biden, that this is a precarious situation that needs to be resolved quickly,” he said. “My bags are packed. I’m ready to go home. I just need an airplane to come and get me.”
While announcing Griner’s release, Biden acknowledged the Whelan family on Thursday. He said that the prisoner swap for Griner was “not a choice of which American to bring home.”
“Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s,” Biden said. “And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up. We will never give up.”