Detained American and ex-marine Paul Whelan was left behind in Russian captivity after Brittney Griner’s release, and he’s now voicing his frustrations. According to CNN, the detained figure expressed his happiness for the WNBA athlete’s freedom, but was ultimately disheartened by the lack of effort on the US’s part to secure his release.
In an interview shortly after news broke that Brittney would be returning to American soil, Whelan stated that he wasn’t sure why he was still being held captive in Russia.
“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. I was arrested for a crime that never occurred,” the prisoner revealed. “I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”
Paul continued, speaking from his penal colony where he is being held captive, expressing that he was “surprised” President Biden and his administration didn’t bring him home with Griner.
“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.”
Regarding negotiations with Russia, the country revealed that they wouldn’t participate in a prisoner swap that included Whelan due to him being in a “different category” than Griner.
“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 [Trevor Reed] is, and my treatment is also much different than others held for espionage at other prisons.”
President Joe Biden promised the US wouldn’t “give up” on the ex-marine. However, after securing Griner’s freedom, US officials said Russia refused to negotiate his release, but they reiterated that it wasn’t a matter of choosing which American to free.
“This was not a situation where we had a choice of which American to bring home,” a US senior administration official communicated. “It was a choice between bringing home one particular American, Brittney Griner, or bringing home none.”
Paul Whelan addressed his “different category” than the WNBA basketball star and alleged that it was false and was simply a ploy by the US’ adversary to achieve “political extortion.” The ex-marine also sent a message to the United States Commander-in-Chief, declaring he’s ready to come home.
“That raises a lot of concerns because none of it is true,” Paul conveyed. “And they’re trying to get out of United States, what the United States may not be able to provide, but this is basically political extortion.”
“I would say that if a message could go to President Biden, that this is a precarious situation that needs to be resolved quickly,” the 52-year-old said. “My bags are packed. I’m ready to go home. I just need an airplane to come and get me.”
Later in the conversation, the Canadian-born political prisoner voiced his fear of not being able to see his family again, noting their old age, if the process continues to lag.
“My parents are older. My dog is 14 and a half. If I’m stuck here much longer, I’m in danger of never seeing any of them again. To be quite honest, in these conditions, who knows how I’ll come back or if I’ll come back.”
Whelan, a US, Irish, British and Canadian citizen, was arrested at a hotel in Moscow in December 2018. Russian law enforcement claimed the ex-marine was a spy and, in June 2020, the country sentenced him to 16 years in a Russian penal colony.