Following the Biden administration’s prisoner swap with Russia that included trading WNBA player Brittany Griner and ‘the merchant of death’ arms dealer instead of former marine Paul Whelan, Americans were rightfully outraged. Now, following swift backlash from Americans everywhere, the Biden administration is finally recommitting to freeing Whelan from his Russian prison cell.
On the four-year anniversary of Paul Whelan’s arrest in Russia, Biden administration officials redoubled their efforts to free him.
President Joe Biden signed off on two prisoner exchanges this year, but Whelan, who was sentenced to 16 years in 2020 on spurious espionage charges, was not included. According to the administration, he was wrongfully detained and used as a bargaining chip by the Kremlin.
In a statement, national security advisor Jake Sullivan said, “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.”
Sullivan then referenced the recent release of WNBA star Brittney Giner from Russia, adding, “Paul and the Whelan family recently showed the entire country the meaning of generosity of spirit in celebrating a fellow Americans 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.”
In regards to Whelan’s freedom, the White House said last week that “active conversations” are underway between the administration and its Russian counterparts.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement as well, saying, “Russian authorities subjected him to a secret trial and sentenced him to 16 years in a Russian penal colony based on secret evidence. His detention remains unacceptable, and we continue to press for his immediate release at every opportunity. I am committed to bringing home Paul and all U.S. hostages and wrongful detainees held around the world.”
Biden exchanged convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for U.S. basketball superstar Brittney Griner earlier this month after she was arrested and charged with bringing vape cartridges containing minimal amounts of marijuana, which the administration deemed wrongfully detained. During the time of the deal, Griner was serving nine years in prison in a penal colony.
As part of the other prisoner exchange in April, convicted Russian drug smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko was exchanged for former Marine Trevor Reed.
It is a disgrace that the Biden administration has allowed a U.S. veteran to continue to rot in a Russian jail cell four years after his wrongful arrest. While engaging in less talk and more action, it is imperative that the Biden administration free Paul Whelan now- especially considering their recent prisoner swaps with Russia that included trading two other citizens instead of Whelan. We must never leave a veteran behind and this marks yet another act of betrayal from the current President to our armed forces. The people have spoken and expect swift action from the White House; it’s time for less talk more action so we can get our brave veteran back home where he belongs.
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