American imprisoned in Russia, left behind during Britney Griner prisoner swap, says Biden has 'abandoned' him

"It's extremely frustrating to know that they've made these mistakes. They've basically abandoned me here."

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Hannah Nightingale Washington DC
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Paul Whelan, the retired Marine left behind in Russia during the prisoner swap agreement with Russia that saw American basketball player Brittney Griner released, says that the Biden administration has "basically abandoned me here."

Whelan told the BBC by phone, "I know the US have all sorts of proposals, but it's not what the Russians want. So they go back and forth, like throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks."

"The problem is, it's my life that's draining away while they do this. It's been five years," he added.

"It's extremely stressful knowing that I could have been home years ago," Whelan said. "It's extremely frustrating to know that they've made these mistakes. They've basically abandoned me here."

Whelan said the decision to leave him behind felt like a "serious betrayal."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that the administration is "actively working" on trying to free both Whelan as well as Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. Both have been accused of espionage.

Whalen fears another prisoner swap in which he is left in Russia.

"I'm extremely concerned. With each case, my case is going to the back of the line. They've kind of just left me in the dust. And at this point, this juncture, it's very concerning."

"All the promises made have been empty," Whalen said of the US.

Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence at a remote Russian labor camp, and said that his living conditions have "seriously declined." In November, he was attacked by a fellow prisoner in November, suffering an abrasion beneath one of his eyes.

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