Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan said Thursday that he “doesn’t understand why I’m sitting here” in a Russian prison, adding that he was “disappointed” that the Biden administration didn’t do more to get him out after WNBA star Britney Spears. Griner jumped out.
“I am deeply saddened that more was not done to free me, especially as it is approaching the fourth anniversary of my arrest.” Whelan, 53, told CNN in an interview from the colony where he is being held.
“I was arrested for a crime that never happened”Whelan added. “I don’t understand why I’m sitting here.”
The former Marine, who was arrested at a Moscow hotel in December 2018 and charged with espionage, said he felt left behind by the Biden White House.
”My bags are packed. I’m ready to go home. I just need a plane,” she pleaded.
Whelan, who was convicted in June 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in prison, said he was happy for Griner and his family, but said he had to believe “that things are moving in the right direction and that the authorities are negotiating. something will happen soon.”
Biden administration officials said they worked with Griner to negotiate Whelan’s release, but it came down to “a choice between bringing home a certain American, Brittney Griner, or not.”
Whelan said that because he was accused of spying, the Russians “put me above what they did with them. [fellow American detainee] Trevor [Reed] and Brittney.”
“It raises a lot of concerns because none of it is true,” he told CNN. “And they’re trying to get something out of the United States that the United States can’t give, but it’s basically political extortion.”
Still, Whelan said he hopes Biden and other U.S. officials will “do everything they can to bring me home, no matter the price they have to pay at this time.”
“If there is a message for President Biden, I would say this is a dangerous situation that needs to be addressed quickly,” he said.
Whelan said Thursday that he spoke with an administration official but wanted to take his case directly to the president himself, “so they know what I’m doing and what’s going on in these foreign prisons they personally understand what we are dealing with and in this context … [it’s] It is clear that I am a hostage.”
Paul Whelan’s brother, David, said their family “doesn’t begrudge Ms. Griner her freedom.”
“As I have often stated, Brittney and Paul’s cases were never connected. “There was always a strong possibility that one would be released without the other,” he said statement.
“I can’t even fathom how Paul must have felt when he found out,” added David Whelan. “Paul has worked so hard to survive this injustice for almost 4 years. His hopes have risen knowing that the US government is taking concrete steps to free him. He is worried about where he will live when he returns to the US.”
David Whelan also said he was worried his brother would live in Russia for another 12 years.
“How do you continue to survive day to day when you know your government has failed to release you from a foreign prison twice?” he said. “I can’t imagine he’s not hoping the government will negotiate his freedom right now.” The U.S. government clearly has no preference for the Russian government, Paul Whelan. So Paul remains a prisoner until this situation changes.”