So what about Paul Whelan? Biden slammed for ignoring Marine and prioritizing Brittney Griner release

So what about Paul Whelan? Biden slammed for ignoring Marine and prioritizing Brittney Griner release
Joe Biden (C) was criticized for striking a prisoner swap deal with Russia to free Brittney Griner (R) but not working toward Paul Whelan's (L) release (9NEWS/ YouTube, Win McNamee/Getty Images, @nojumper/Twitter)

WASHINGTON DC: Brittney Griner was recently released from a Russian prison. President Joe Biden and his administration came under fire for the swap deal with Russia that freed the famous basketball player but left a former US Marine who has been held in the country for four years.

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Republicans in Congress and many who support Americans held captive abroad questioned the administration's choice to consent to a prisoner swap in which the US released Russian arms trader Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner. Critics claimed that as part of the swap deal, the Biden administration should have sought the release of former Marine Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Russia on espionage allegations. Top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee slammed the Biden administration for not working toward Whelan's release. Alabama Rep Mike Rogers remarked on Twitter, "While I welcome the release of Brittney Griner, I cannot help but think about Paul Whelan - as he has apparently been abandoned by the Biden administration." 

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Whelan's release ought to have been included in a prisoner swap, states Republican senator Rick Scott. "For Biden to give (Vladimir) Putin a dangerous arms dealer – someone known as the ‘Merchant of Death’ – is weak & disgusting," Scott tweeted, adding, “Doing so while leaving Paul behind is unforgivable."

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Hours after Griner's release, Whelan expressed disappointment that more had not been done to ensure his freedom in an interview with CNN. He stated during a telephone conversation from the Russian penal colony where he is being held, "I don't understand why I'm still sitting here." The Whelan case is being handled differently by the Russians than Griner's, who was arrested in February 2022 on drug-related charges, according to the Biden administration, which said it is still working to secure his release.

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The two-time Olympic gold medalist and Phoenix Mercury star Griner was detained by customs officers at a Moscow airport in February for attempting to enter the country with less than a gram of cannabis oil concealed in vape cartridges.

Whelan, 52, has been held captive in Russia since December 2018 on spurious espionage allegations, according to his family and the American authorities. In 2020, Russia found the former Marine guilty of spying and sentenced him to 16 years in a maximum-security prison camp. According to Whelan's attorney, Russian intelligence agents set him up.

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Griner, who was also a professional basketball player in Russia, admitted guilt to the drug charges brought against her but said in court that she had hurriedly packed the cannabis oil in her suitcase accidentally and had never intended to breach the law. She was found guilty and given a nine-year prison term in a Russian correctional colony. 

Biden administration slammed for not doing more for Whelan's release

Biden updated about Griner's journey back to the US on Twitter writing, "Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home." However, his administration was criticized for not doing more to bring Whelan home. One user wrote, "So we left the other American who’s been there FOUR YEARS, gave Russia their arms dealer back, and all we got was an anthem kneeler that can’t pack a suitcase without putting drugs in it?"

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Another user wrote, "The Russians are laughing at you." Another user said, "You traded an international arms dealer for Brittney Griner who disgraced our country by kneeling for the national anthem? Putin played you."

One user wrote, "You left behind a veteran to save an athlete only because the athlete can boost your political image. Slimy. As always." One wrote, "If she didn’t hate America you wouldn’t have gotten her out."

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Another user wrote, "Today not only have I witnessed the worse trade ever, but also the most blatant disrespect for our military. How do you trade to bring back a person that won’t stand for our flag and not for a person that has served to protect our rights?"

One person questioned, "What about Paul Whelan who has been in Russian prison longer than her? Why does she get released before him?" Another person penned, "What about Whelan you know the marine that served our country? You know the marine that’s been there since 2018? Good for her bad for those who serve our country." One user commented, "Have you spoken to the retired marine that’s been imprisoned there for FOUR YEARS?"

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This article contains remarks made on the Internet by individual people and organizations. MEAWW cannot confirm them independently and does not support claims or opinions being made online.

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