White House Marks Paul Whelan Detention Anniversary, Slams Russia’s ‘Deplorable Treatment’

The White House acknowledged the four-year anniversary of American Paul Whelan’s wrongful detention in Russia, criticizing the country’s “deplorable treatment of Paul as a bargaining chip.”

National security adviser Jake Sullivan released a statement on the anniversary and pledged to keep fighting to bring Whelan back to the U.S.

“Today marks four years of wrongful detention in Russia for American Paul Whelan and, as the President and I have told the Whelan family, we will not stop, we will not relent, we will not cease until all Americans can celebrate Paul’s return,” Sullivan said.

Whelan, 52, was arrested in 2018 and accused of espionage, which he has denied. He began a 16-year sentence in Russia in 2020.

Sullivan noted how Whelan and his family recently supported the release of Brittney Griner, a WNBA player and two-time Olympic gold medalist who was imprisoned in Russia after police found vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage while traveling. Griner was released as part of a prisoner swap for arms dealer Viktor Bout.

“Paul and the Whelan family recently showed the entire country the meaning of generosity of spirit in celebrating a fellow American’s return while Russia continues its deplorable treatment of Paul as a bargaining chip,” Sullivan said.

After Griner’s release, Whelan told CNN he was happy for her return to the U.S. but “greatly disappointed” more hadn’t been done to secure his own.

“I was led to believe that things were moving in the right direction, and that the governments were negotiating and that something would happen fairly soon,” he said.

“My bags are packed. I’m ready to go home. I just need an airplane to come and get me,” he added.

Griner, who landed in the U.S. on Dec. 9, recently urged her supporters to write letters to Whelan and support the efforts toward his release.

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