After WNBA star Brittney Griner was released from Russian prison over a prisoner swap, Paul Whelan’s family discussed their thoughts on the situation.
Alongside Griner, United States Marine Paul Whelan has also been detained in a Russian prison. His imprisonment began in 2018 over reports of espionage. Although many have criticized President Joe Biden for choosing to bring Griner home over the marine, the Whelan family expressed nothing but support for the administration and their ability to bring home any wrongfully detained American. In fact, they also recognized that Russia was less likely to agree to a prisoner exchange if Paul was the one being sent back to the United States.
“I am so glad that Brittney Griner is on her way home. As the family member of a Russian hostage, I can literally only imagine the joy she will have, being reunited with her loved ones, and in time for the holidays,” Paul’s brother David said during an interview with CNN. “The Biden administration made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home, and to make the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn’t going to happen.”
He went on to note, “It was a choice between bringing home one particular American — Brittney Griner — or bringing home none.”
David Whelan says his brother is working hard to ‘survive injustice’
“Paul has worked so hard to survive nearly 4 years of this injustice,” David added, touching on the experience his brother is currently going through. “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.”
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“How do you continue to survive, day after day, when you know that your government has failed twice to free you from a foreign prison? I can’t imagine he retains any hope that a government will negotiate his freedom at this point,” the Whelan brother continued. “It’s clear that the U.S. government has no concessions that the Russian government will take for Paul Whelan. And so Paul will remain a prisoner until that changes.”
David also discussed the harrowing conditions in which Paul works. According to the brother, he is anxious that the marine won’t be able to survive the labor conditions of the Russian government. “I worry that Paul himself won’t survive 12 more years in a Russian labor colony. He has tried to stay healthy, but one wonders how long that determination to keep going can endure,” he explained.
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