Former US Marine Paul Whelan, who has spent the last five years in a Russian jail on espionage accusations that the US government and Whelan himself reject, has blasted President Joe Biden for not doing more to get him out.
Even though Whelan has garnered significant backing from the State Department, the National Security Council, and both houses of Congress, he has aimed at Biden, accusing him of having “chosen to leave me behind twice.”
The effects of his captivity in a Russian labor camp, particularly over the holiday season, were described by Whelan. He described how dangerous it is to deal with criminals and unfriendly jail authorities in such an atmosphere. Whelan is understandably agitated and has called out the President to “man up.”
According to the White House, securing Whelan’s release is “no bigger priority” for Biden. Russia has not responded to the “substantial” proposals made by the White House, including one this month, to secure Whelan’s release.
As the Biden administration attempts to negotiate with Moscow for the release of all American detainees, Whelan is “very afraid” that he may once again be left behind in Russia. He fears that a prisoner swap might lead to the release of Wall Street Journal writer Evan Gershkovich while he remains in Russia. Moscow is “adamant” on “one-for-one swaps” in case of a possible exchange. Being left behind a third time is a significant worry for Whelan, who is at the five-year mark.
Whelan said he’s anxious and alone and worried the Biden administration would find a way to send Evan back home, leaving him behind.
Months ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow is trying to figure out a way to exchange detainees, Whelan and Gershkovich. This statement was made only a few weeks after the State Department said that Moscow had turned down a “substantial approach” to obtain the release of Whelan and Gershkovich.
The release of Gershkovich without him might “seriously impede” the possibility of sending him home, according to Whelan, who was beaten this year in a prison camp.