Biden administration officials meet with family of Paul Whelan following Griner deal

Russia US Espionage
Paul Whelan, a former U.S. marine who was arrested for alleged spying, listens to the verdict in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, Monday, June 15, 2020. The Moscow City Court on Monday convicted Paul Whelan on charges of espionage and sentenced him to 16 years in maximum security prison colony. Whelan has insisted on his innocence, saying he was set up. The U.S. Embassy has denounced Whelan’s trial as unfair, pointing that no evidence has been provided. (Sofia Sandurskaya, Moscow News Agency photo via AP) Sofia Sandurskaya/AP

Biden administration officials meet with family of Paul Whelan following Griner deal

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Officials in the Biden administration met with the family of Paul Whelan, a Marine who is still in Russian custody, amid renewed calls to bring Whelan home, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday.

Representatives from the State Department and the National Security Council met virtually with Whelan’s sister, Elizabeth Whelan, to discuss what the Biden administration is doing to get Paul Whelan home, and called the meeting “substantive.”


“We have been working to figure out what it’s going to take to ultimately secure [Whelan’s] freedom,” Sullivan said.

Whelan has been wrongfully detained in Russia for four years on espionage charges that both Whelan and the White House claim are false.

The meeting occurred shortly after the administration secured the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was exchanged for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. Whelan was not included in the deal. However, the next high-level security discussions with Russia about Whelan’s freedom will take place this week, Sullivan said.

Senior administration officials have insisted that Biden still remains committed to securing Whelan’s release, with the president’s hostage affairs envoy telling the former Marine that Biden is determined to bring him home.

“This is as high a priority as the president has,” Sullivan said.

State Department spokesman Ned Price also reiterated the department’s devotion to getting Whelan back to the U.S., claiming the department would be creative and relentless in order to get him home.

“We are going to be creative. We are going to be relentless in working with Paul Whelan’s family, his loved ones, and, in turn, with the Russians, to do everything we can to see this case resolved as soon as we can,” Price said.


The White House claimed that Russia is treating Whelan’s case much differently than Griner’s and that it was not acting on “good faith” when it came to Whelan. Whelan was arrested on charges of spying in 2018 and convicted of espionage in 2020. He is currently serving a 16-year sentence.

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