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As soon as news broke that the United States had agreed to a one-for-one prisoner swap to bring WNBA star Brittney Griner home in exchange for a Russian arms dealer, people were wondering why Paul Whelan was not part of the deal.
Whelan is an ex-Marine and businessman who has been detained in Russia for the last four years on espionage charges.
Unfortunately, the Biden administration did not press the issue when they were told by the Russians that the deal was Griner for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout — A.K.A. The Merchant of Death — or nothing.
To their credit, the Biden administration did notify the Whelan family that he would not be part of the deal.
Whelan’s twin brother David released a statement through ABC News’ Jay O’Brien after Griner’s release was announced.
More from Paul Whelan’s twin brother David pic.twitter.com/SIsGelOjPV— Jay O’Brien (@jayobtv) December 8, 2022
“It is so important to me that it is clear that we do not begrudge Ms. Griner her freedom,” David Whelan said. “As I have often remarked, Brittney’s and Paul’s cases were never really intertwined. It has always been a strong possibility that one might be freed without the other.”
Whelan commended the deal for Griner, instead of “waiting for one that wasn’t going to happen.”
Griner Situation Different For Whelans Than Last US-Russia Prisoner Swap
In April, the Biden administration made a deal to bring home another prisoner, marine Trevor Reed. Paul Whelan was left out of that one too.
However, the Biden administration didn’t provide his family with a heads-up in advance.
“This time, US government officials let us know in advance that Paul would be left behind [12/7/2022], unlike last April when they left him,” Whelan’s brother said. “That early warning meant that our family has been able to mentally prepare for what is now a public disappointment for us. And a catastrophe for Paul.
David Whelan went on to say that he wasn’t sure whether his brother had heard the news about Griner’s release, but assumed he would soon. He also revealed that his parents have had calls with Paul since he was returned to Russian prison IK-17.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle