Paul Whelan, an American prisoner in Russia, expressed grave anxiety about being abandoned once again while the Biden administration seeks to negotiate the release of American captives with the Kremlin.
Whelan expressed his concerns to American media during one of several phone conversations during the Christmas break regarding the Russians’ insistence on one-on-one discussions, which he believes will lead to the release of Wall Street Journal writer Evan Gershkovich rather than his own.
Gershkovich was arrested last March by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) on suspicion of espionage.
Whelan felt abandoned and betrayed last month when the Biden administration failed to obtain his release.
Whelan expressed his utmost fear about being left behind for a third time in five years. He said his biggest fear is that the Biden administration will find a way to send Gershkovich back home, meaning he’ll be there for a third stint.
The fact that Moscow is spreading the falsehood that Whelan is a secret agent and a brigadier general sent to Russia for an undercover operation is not helping things, according to the former Marine.
Prosecuted for espionage and given a 16-year jail term, Whelan and the United States have both contested the accusations.
Moscow is attempting to organize a prisoner exchange involving both Whelan and Gershkovich, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A few weeks ago, however, the State Department announced that Russia had turned down a substantial offer to free the two American prisoners.
The National Security Council (NSC) stated a response from the White House.
Adrienne Watson, a representative for the NSC, said that the organization has made and will make substantial offers for Whelan and Gershkovich, including one earlier in December.
According to Whelan, the longer the swap talks drag on, the more challenging they will be to settle.
He was not included in the two prisoner exchanges between Moscow and Washington under the Biden administration.
In April 2022, the United States received Marine veteran Trevor Reed and WNBA star Brittney Griner months later. Reports showGriner was swapped for Viktor “The merchant of death” Bout, a convicted Russian weapons dealer, while Reed was exchanged for a Russian man facing narcotics charges.