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Tipsheet

White House Explains Why U.S. Marine Paul Whelan Was Left Behind

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Speaking to reporters at the White House Thursday afternoon, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre attempted to explain why WNBA player Brittney Griner was released from Russian custody while U.S. Marine Paul Whelan remains falsely imprisoned. 

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"The Russians were not willing to negotiate in good faith at this time for the release of Paul Whelan," Jean-Pierre said. "It was either Brittney or no one at all."

Jean-Pierre also confirmed Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer known as the "Merchant of Death," is a national security threat to the United States after being released from a U.S. prison in exchange for Griner. 

In an interview with CNN, Whelan expressed deep frustration with the U.S. government and the failure to get him home. 

“I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release, especially as the four year anniversary of my arrest is coming up. I was arrested for a crime that never occurred,” Whelan told CNN. “I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”

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Whelan's family also expressed disappointment about a lack of progress for his release. 

"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. There is no greater success than for a wrongful detainee to be freed and for them to go home. 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," David Whelan, Paul's brother, said. "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 US."

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"And now what? 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.  It's clear that the US government has no concessions that the Russian government will take for Paul Whelan. And so Paul will remain a prisoner until that changes," he continued. 

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