As Brittney Griner returns to the U.S. after being in Russian custody for nearly 10 months, the brother of U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who has been imprisoned in Russia since 2018, is speaking about the WNBA player’s exchange.
While speaking to CNN This Morning, David, Paul’s brother, stated he is “absolutely supportive” of President Biden securing Brittney Griner in the one-for-one prison swap instead of Paul. “I think to prolong the punishment of one American in a foreign hostage situation in the hope that you might be able to bring home two of them is absolutely the wrong call for the U.S. President to make,” David explained. “An American in that situation who has a possibility of coming home… I think the U.S. President has to bring them home.”
However, he did acknowledge that it is unfortunate that his brother was not part of the exchange for Brittney Griner. “Unfortunately for my brother and for our family, it’s not our family member,” he said. “But I think from the perspective of Americans, that’s the right decision.”
He spoke about Brittney Griner’s release by sharing, “It’s a great day for the families of the wrongfully detained and we feel wonderful for them. But we do worry about what’s in Paul’s future. I think it’s become clear that the US doesn’t have any concessions that the Russian government wants for Paul. So I’m not really sure what the future holds.”
David added he can’t fathom how his brother will feel about Brittney Griner’s release. “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.”
Following the Brittney Griner Exchange, Paul Whelan Admits He Is ‘Greatly Disappointed’
Meanwhile, David Whelan spoke to CNN as well about Brittney Griner being released through the exchange. “I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release,” he declared. “Especially as the four-year anniversary of my arrest is coming up. I was arrested for a crime that never occurred. I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”
However, a U.S. Senior Administration official spoke about Whelan’s imprisonment and what’s being done. “This was not a situation where we had a choice of which American to bring home,” they stated. “It was a choice between bringing home one particular American – Brittney Griner – or bringing home none.”
Whelan admitted he was surprised that he has been left behind. “I was led to believe that things were moving in the right direction,” he alleged. “And that the governments were negotiating and that something would happen fairly soon.”
Whelan, a former U.S. Marine is a U.S., Irish, British, and Canadian citizen. He was detained at a Moscow hotel in December 2018 by Russian authorities on the grounds that Whelan was involved in an intelligence operation. Whelan was convicted and sentenced in June 2020. He is now serving a 16-year prison sentence.