December 28, 2022 Russia-Ukraine News

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a press briefing December 22 at State Department headquarters in Washington DC. (Lenin Nolly/Sipa USA/AP)

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken renewed his pledge to work to bring American Paul Whelan back from Russia on the fourth anniversary of his wrongful detention.

« His detention remains unacceptable and we continue to press for his immediate release at every opportunity, » Blinken said in a statement. « I pledge to bring back Paul and all American hostages and wrongful inmates held around the world. »

« As the President has told the Whelan family directly, our efforts to secure Paul’s release will not cease until he returns home with his family to which he belongs, » he said. declared.

Whelan’s sister said Wednesday that it is « a sign of weakness that the Russian authorities are continuing this practice of hostage diplomacy by refusing to release my brother, who they know full well has been arrested and convicted for accusations they themselves made up ».

« The Kremlin seems to have lost the plot, » Elizabeth Whelan told CNN.

« Enough with that ‘spy’ horse shit, already! » she said. “Does this pass for competent negotiation in the Kremlin? Because any random person at the local flea market might manage to close a deal with more skill.

« And they’re definitely not ‘making friends and influencing people’ in this household, that’s for sure! » Elizabeth Whelan added.

Whelan’s brother called the fourth anniversary of Paul’s detention « both gruesome and unremarkable », wondering, « How do you mark such a horrible milestone when there is no solution in sight? » »

In an emailed message to the media, David Whelan said the anniversary was « another day Paul has to suffer in a Russian labor camp for being in the wrong place at the wrong time ».

“Another day that our parents have to endure without being able to see or be with their son. It is both the culmination of a life lost – four years of missed birthdays, Christmases and other experiences – and not an end point, » he wrote. « It is simply a marker of their suffering, not an indicator that the suffering will end until another stage, another year passes. »

« We continue to be grateful for the efforts of the US government to persuade the Kremlin to release Paul, » added David Whelan.

“I hope these efforts will be crowned with success. Hopefully Paul can stop by our parents and visit them, free at last, before another stage passes. On milestones, sometimes all you have is hope,” he said.

A bit of context: Whelan was arrested in Moscow in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison in June 2020.

The Biden administration was unable to secure his release when it brought home detained WNBA star Brittney Griner in a prisoner swap for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in mid-December.

Several U.S. officials said the Russians refused to negotiate a deal for Whelan, and CNN reported that Moscow has repeatedly asked for a convicted murderer who is being held by the Germans in exchange for the ex-Marine.

« It was not a situation where we had a choice of which American to bring home. It was a choice between bringing home a particular American – Brittney Griner – or not bringing any of them, » said said a senior US administration official.

Whelan told CNN on a call the day Griner was released, « It’s a victory for America when our citizens are repatriated and are back home with their families, but I have to say I’m very disappointed that nothing has been done to secure my Especially as the fourth anniversary of my arrest is approaching.

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