The family of former US Marine Paul Whelan, who was held in Russia on espionage charges, celebrated the release of Brittney Griner on Thursday, but said the news would be “disastrous for Paul”.
In a statement, Whelan’s brother David told the family that before Griner’s release was announced, relatives would not be coming home “unlike when they left him last April.”
“This early warning meant that our family could mentally prepare for what was a public disappointment for us. And disaster for Paul, wrote David Whelan.
“I don’t know if he is aware yet, although he will certainly learn from the Russian media.”
Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence for espionage, which he denies and US officials call a hoax. He was arrested in 2018 and convicted two years later.
When asked Thursday about Griner’s release, David Whelan said he was happy for Griner and his family.
“This is great news. Every time an American comes home, it’s great news. I am so happy for Brittney and Cheryl. It’s a great day,” he said CNN.
Whelan said in a statement: “I am so happy that Brittney Griner is going home. As a family member of a Russian hostage, I can literally imagine how happy she must be to be reunited with her loved ones and celebrate the holidays.
He also noted that the Biden administration “made the right decision” and that it’s better to make a deal than wait for it to “not happen.”
While David Whelan expressed his happiness for Griner, he admitted that he has major concerns about his brother.
“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, David said.
This is the second time the US government has failed to secure Whelan’s release. The first was the April release of 30-year-old American veteran Trevor Reed.
In announcing Griner’s release, Biden said the exchange was “not a choice about which American to bring home” and reiterated his commitment to bringing Whelan back to American soil.
“We have not forgotten Paul Whelan. “We will continue negotiations in good faith for the release of Paul,” he added.
Initially, the Biden administration asked for the release of Griner and Whelan, but insisted that Russia insist on a one-to-one deal.
A U.S. official said Thursday that Washington “faces a choice between bringing home one particular American, Brittney Griner, and not bringing home.”
With post wires