The twin brother of an Ottawa-born man who is currently being held in Russia says his family is happy to have NBA star Brittney Grenier back home and is patiently awaiting the same outcome.
“Every inmate’s family feels good that another inmate is home, to know that they are back with their loved ones,” David Whelan, Paul’s brother, told CBC News on Friday. “Let’s hope it’s our last day.”
Paul Whelan – a former US Marine with Canadian, American, British and Irish citizenship – has been imprisoned in Russia for nearly four years on espionage charges. He describes the charges against him as “garbage”.
Meanwhile, WNBA player Greiner was jailed for nearly 10 months after Russian authorities said she loaded cigarette packs with hemp oil — a move some critics say is political. She was released on Thursday in a high-profile prisoner exchange with notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout and returned to the United States early Friday.
David Whelan says that the White House told his family before the prisoner exchange that Greiner was going home and Paul would not, which he said allowed them to “process the information privately.”
“You have happiness for another family and grief for your own,” Whelan said. Perhaps even anger towards the Kremlin [for] Keep doing this injustice to Paul.
Bill Richardson, the former US ambassador to the United Nations and the negotiator who worked on Graner’s release and the Paul Whelan case, told CBC News on Friday that he expected Whelan to be included with Grenier in a two-for-two prisoner exchange, but said he was Russian. And President Vladimir Putin decided to refuse it at the “last minute”.
He cites deteriorating relations between the US and Russia as a possible reason why Whelan was not included in the agreement – “I think President Putin didn’t want to give [U.S. President Joe] Biden is a win, two against two” — but noted that his release is a “priority” and that the Russians are actively negotiating.
“I was sad that Paul Whelan wasn’t a part of this,” Richardson said of the trade. “I tried, for four years, to find formulas to get Paul back, but there always seemed to be a hitch in the end.”
David Whelan says his family doesn’t know much about the details of the negotiations to bring Paul home, but they’re trying to be patient.
“It just takes time. It takes a long time,” he said. “We need to be patient as the US government takes a position on how to deal with this new problem, [along with] Countries like Canada, UK, etc. [on] How do we deal with this new hostage environment?
David says he hasn’t spoken to his brother since October 2018, two months before his arrest, and while he knows Paul is in good health via daily calls to their parents, they remain concerned for his safety.
“He is alive, but being alive does not mean he is alive and he has to go home.”