The brother of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who has been imprisoned in a Russian labor camp since his 2018 arrest on espionage charges, pleaded with President Biden to take diplomatic action on behalf of his family and help bring his brother home.

The White House announced Wednesday that Biden has been in contact with the wife of Brittney Griner, a two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist who is facing up to 10 years in a Russian jail for allegedly trying to bring vape cartridges containing oils derived from cannabis through a Moscow airport. 

Dave Whelan told “America Reports” on Thursday that while he is “thrilled” Biden is working with Griner’s wife to secure a safe release for a wrongful U.S. detainee, he wonders why his family was not also given the opportunity to discuss his brother’s case with the president.

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Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who was arrested for alleged spying, listens to the verdict in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, June 15, 2020. (Sofia Sandurskaya, Moscow News Agency photo via AP)

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who was arrested for alleged spying, listens to the verdict in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, June 15, 2020. (Sofia Sandurskaya, Moscow News Agency photo via AP)
(Sofia Sandurskaya, Moscow News Agency photo via AP)

“There has been an uncertainty among wrongfully detained families about what we are supposed to be doing,” Whelan said. “We heard from the State Department at one point a few weeks ago, maybe a month ago, that we needed to make more noise, we needed to raise more awareness around Paul’s case because there were certain parts of the U.S. government or agencies that were not getting on board for trying to solve wrongful detention cases.”

“And so you hear things like that from the State Department,” he continued. “Or back when Trevor Reed was released, you hear the meeting that they had with President Biden was what sort of helps get that verdict to happen, and it makes you wonder as a family, what on earth you are supposed to be doing in order to be getting the U.S. government to act.”

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Paul Whelan, who was arrested in December 2018, has said that he was set up, that a person he considered a friend handed him a USB drive allegedly containing vacation photos. Minutes later Russian authorities stormed his hotel room, claiming that the drive contained a list of names of those working at a classified security agency. Whelan and his family maintain his innocence, saying that he was only in Russia at the time of his arrest to attend the wedding of a friend from his time in the Marines. Dave said his brother has been serving his sentence in a Russian labor camp, where he has been repeatedly denied any medical treatment.

Paul Whelan, a former US marine accused of espionage and arrested in Russia in December 2018, stands inside a defendants' cage as he waits to hear his verdict in Moscow on June 15, 2020. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Paul Whelan, a former US marine accused of espionage and arrested in Russia in December 2018, stands inside a defendants’ cage as he waits to hear his verdict in Moscow on June 15, 2020. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

“Paul is suffering a hot spell in a labor camp in the middle of Russia,” Dave Whelan said. “The sanctions are starting to bite because they don’t have textiles to actually make anything, and then the corruption that we thought might be going away seems to still be there.”

The Whelan family managed to send Paul Theraflu, but Dave said there is a small chance he will get it unless he “bribes the guard who holds on to it.”

The Whelans have had regular conversations with various contacts in the State Department throughout the ordeal, but no significant action has been taken on behalf of their brother, Dave said.

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“It’s time to take action,” he demanded. “I think what we’re finding is that although the Russian government is horribly corrupt, the U.S. doesn’t seem to have found a concession that that corrupt government would want, and it’s surprising to me that they haven’t been able to bring Paul and perhaps Ms. Griner home as well.”

The White House said that Biden is actively “working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other U.S. nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world.”



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