WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – The administration of President Joe Biden on Wednesday marked the fourth anniversary of the Russian arrest of American businessman Paul Whelan, whose imprisonment is one of the main sources of friction in deteriorating relations between Washington and Moscow.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that securing Whalen’s release is a top priority for the Biden administration.
US authorities expected Whalen to be involved in a recent prisoner swap that saw WNBA star Brittney Griner detained for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. The US government believes that Whelan, like Griner, was wrongfully detained.
Blinken said Whelan and his family have been “suffering an indescribable ordeal” and condemned the American’s conviction and 16-year prison sentence, once again based on secret evidence.
“His detention is unacceptable and we will continue to push for his immediate release at every opportunity,” Blinken said. “Our efforts to secure Paul’s release will not stop until he is returned home to his family, where he lives.”
Whelan, a Michigan executive specializing in corporate security, has been jailed in Russia on charges of espionage that his family and the US government have said are baseless. US officials said Russia declined to consider engaging Whelan in business with Griner, calling it an “one or none” decision.
“Paul and the Whelan family recently showed the entire nation the meaning of generosity of spirit,” said Biden’s national security adviser to President Jakes, as they celebrated the return of a fellow American as Russia chipped in with Paul in the bargain. has continued to behave as such.” Sullivan.
The Whalen family supported the trade releasing Griner, but expressed fear that it would take years for Whalen to be released.
His brother, David Whelan, said at the time of the trade announcement: “I think we all feel that the math doesn’t work out for Paul coming home soon, unless the United States government can find concessions.”
Paul Whelan, 52, was sentenced in 2020.
“Today is the 1,461st day that Paul has been held hostage by the Russian Federation. Four years ago today, Russian authorities captured him,” David Whelan said in a statement on Wednesday. How do you mark an awesome milestone?
The anniversary, he said, is “terrible and mean, just another day that Paul had to suffer in a Russian labor colony for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”