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Paul Whelan talks to continue with Russia: Biden admin

The Biden administration believes Russia will be open to discussing the release of Paul Whelan, the unreleased U.S. Marine with WNBA star Brittney Griner, because “they have things they want in this world,” according to a senior administration official.

Russia has refused what the United States has offered to free Whelan, who has been imprisoned for espionage since 2018 but apparently knows how to carry on the conversation if they want to reach an agreement on other important issues, the official told CNN.

“We were open to talking about what is actually available to us and only got a response in response to something that was not available to us,” the manager said.

Shortly after Brittney Griner arrived in Texas on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said more prisoner swaps between the two countries could be a possibility.

Putin said “anything is possible” when asked about future swaps, noting that “compromises have been reached” in order to swap the Mercury Star Phoenix for arms dealer Viktor Bout.

“We do not refuse to continue this work in the future,” Putin added.

“Whether this could pave the way for dialogue with the United States is a separate question,” the Russian strongman said. “We haven’t set the task to move on from these talks, but they create a certain atmosphere.”

Whelan spoke by phone with CNN on Thursday and said he didn’t understand why Griner was being released when he wasn’t.

On Thursday, Whelan, 53, said he couldn’t understand why he was still being held in a Russian penal colony as Griner returned to US soil.

The American basketball star was arrested in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after Russian authorities found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in his suitcase.

Griner, who insisted she had inadvertently packaged the cannabis oil, pleaded guilty to drug charges and was sentenced to nine years in a forced labor camp in Mordovia.

“I am very disappointed that nothing else has been done to secure my release, especially as the fourth anniversary of my arrest approaches,” he said.

Paul Whelan
Whelan has maintained his innocence since his arrest in 2018.

“I was arrested for a crime that never happened,” Whelan added. “I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”

President Biden insisted on Thursday that the trade “was not a choice of the American to take home.”

“We have not forgotten Paul Whelan. We will continue to negotiate in good faith for Paul’s release,” he added.

The Biden administration originally offered a deal to Russia that would release both Griner and Whelan, only for Russia to insist on a one-for-one deal.

New York Post

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