All news
Updated at: 

Biden vows more efforts to secure release of Paul Whelan

"We will keep negotiating in good faith for Paul’s release, I guarantee that," Joe Biden assured

WASHINGTON, December 8. /TASS/. US officials will keep trying to secure the release of Paul Whelan, an American convicted of espionage in Russia, and will continue to engage with Moscow on the issue, US President Joe Biden said on Thursday.

Announcing a prisoner exchange involving US national Brittney Griner and Russian citizen Viktor Bout at the White House, Biden said, "We’ve not forgotten about Paul Whelan <...> This was not a choice of which American to bring home. <...> Sadly and for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s."

"And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up. We will never give up. <...> We will keep negotiating in good faith for Paul’s release, I guarantee that," Biden assured. "I urge Russia to do the same to ensure that Paul’s health is maintained <…> until we can bring him home," he added.

In a press statement on the release of Griner, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized, too, on Thursday that Washington would not relent in its efforts to bring Whelan home. "Despite our ceaseless efforts, the Russian Government has not yet been willing to bring a long overdue end to his wrongful detention," Blinken said in the statement. "I wholeheartedly wish we could have brought Paul home today on the same plane with Brittney."

Earlier on Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that Bout, who was serving a prison term in the US on charges related to arms trafficking, would be returned to Russia following agreements with the United States on his swap for Griner, who was convicted in Russia for drug smuggling.

Whelan, who holds US, UK, Canadian and Irish citizenship, was convicted in Russia for spying. On December 28, 2018, he was detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in a room at Moscow’s Metropol Hotel while on a spy mission. The FSB opened a criminal case against him on charges of espionage under Article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code. The Moscow City Court found Whelan guilty of spying against Russia and sentenced him to 16 years in a high security colony. Negotiations about his exchange are ongoing, based on agreements reached between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin through the two countries’ intelligence services.