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Paul Whelan reacts to Griner's release as he remains in Russia

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Posted at 12:04 PM, Dec 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-08 13:06:58-05

Paul Whelan is happy the U.S. secured the release of Brittney Griner, but is "disappointed" more isn't being done to free him from a Russian penal colony.

In a phone interview with CNN, Whelan said he doesn't understand why he's still in Russian custody. He noted that his case is being treated differently than others.

Whelan has been detained in Russian for four years. He was sentenced in 2020 on espionage charges, which he calls baseless.

“They’ve always considered me to be at a higher level than other criminals of my sort and for whatever reason," Whelan told CNN. "I’m treated differently than another individual here from a Western country that’s also on a charge of espionage."

President Joe Biden said Thursday that his administration has not forgotten about Whelan.

"We will keep negotiating in good faith for Paul’s release," Biden stated.

Whelan's family was reportedly told on Wednesday that Griner's release had been secured. Whelan's brother, David, said he was happy that Griner was released, adding her case was very different from his brother's.

"As I have often remarked, Brittney's and Paul's cases were never really intertwined," David Whelan said in a statement. "It has always been a strong possibility that one might be freed without the other."

Griner was arrested in February for possessing hash oil. She was later sentenced to nine years in prison. Griner was released in a prisoner swap for Viktor Bout, an international arms dealer.