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Biden leaves Marine behind in Russian prison with deal to release WNBA star

"That early warning meant that our family has been able to mentally prepare for what is now a public disappointment for us. And a catastrophe for Paul."

Joshua Young Youngsville North Carolina

The Biden administration quietly told the family of Paul Whelan, a US Marine veteran who has been in Russian custody since 2018, that he would not be included in a prisoner swap on Thursday that freed WNBA player Brittney Griner. Evidence has revealed that the administration prioritized the WNBA star, who had been detained for nearly 10 months and had just begun her 9-year sentence, over the veteran, who has been imprisoned in the country since 2018.

According to independent journalist Jordan Schachtel, "The corporate media, citing senior Biden Admin officials, have delivered clues about the prisoner swap options."

Schachtel cited an edited passage in an NBC News article announcing Griner's release, which said, "A senior US official told NBC News that the U.S. government had sought to have both Griner and Whelan released as part of a swap with the Kremlin, which wanted the return of Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who has served 11 years of a 25-year sentence in the US. But the official said Russia has treated Whelan differently because he is an accused spy, and that the Kremlin gave the White House the choice of either Griner or Whelan — or none."

Schachtel noted that this article was edited, with the last sentence of the paragraph now reading, "But the official said Russia has treated Whelan differently because he is an accused spy, and that the Kremlin ultimately gave the White House the choice of either Griner or no one after different options were proposed."

The same NBC News report also cited Whelan's lawyer, writing, "Whelan's Russian lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, also said that the deal was an exchange of ‘one to one,’ and that choosing Griner, 32, appeared ‘more humane’ because she is a woman and an Olympic champion, while Whelan was in the military and it is ‘easier for him to be in custody.'"

According to NBC News, Whelan's brother David said in a statement, "That early warning meant that our family has been able to mentally prepare for what is now a public disappointment for us. And a catastrophe for Paul."

"I do not know if he is aware yet, although he will surely learn from Russian media," David Whelan added.

Paul Whelan did hear the news and according to CNN, he said, "I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release, especially as the four-year anniversary of my arrest is coming up."

In the spring the Biden administration offered to swap Griner and Whelan for convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, also known as the 'Merchant of Death.' Griner was released on Thursday in a one-to-one prisoner swap with Bout that was orchestrated by the Biden administration.

Biden said, "Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul's case differently than Brittney's. And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul's release, we are not giving up. We will never give up."

Whelan has been held by Russia since 2018 for alleged espionage and is serving a 16-year sentence. His arrest involved the Russian confiscation of a flash drive that was alleged to contain classified counterintelligence. Whelan was employed by a Michigan-based auto parts supplier at the time as the head of their global security.

Griner was detained in Russia in February on drug charges after hashish vape oil was discovered at the Moscow airport in her bags. Griner said there was "no intent" and that she "didn't want to break the law." Cannabis in Russia is strictly illegal, with possession over 6 grams a criminal offense and Griner's attorney's said she had a prescription for the drug.

Griner pleaded guilty and on August 4 she was sentenced to 9 years in a Russian penal colony.

Biden said he has not "forgotten about Paul Whelan, who has been unjustly detained in Russia for years. This was not a choice of which American to bring home."

David Whelan said, "It is so important to me that it is clear that we do not begrudge Ms. Griner her freedom. As I have often remarked, Brittney's and Paul's cases were never really intertwined. It has always been a strong possibility that one might be freed without the other."

The Whelan family did express disappointment in April when former Marine Trevor Reed was released from a Russian prison. Reed was serving nine years after a drunken fight with a Russian officer.

The New York Post reports that Bout is also known as the "Merchant of Death," and he supplied weapons to "the most vicious warlords in the world," helped the Taliban take power in Afghanistan, and enabled "murderous groups to kidnap and train thousands of child soldiers." He also trained those children to rape and torture their enemies.

The UN accused Bout of supplying arms to Liberian President Charles Taylor to fight a civil war in Sierra Leone

Bout began his career in arms dealing after the collapse of the Soviet Union, taking Soviet-made weapons and selling them to warlords and rogue states in Africa, Asia, and South America. He was arrested in Thailand in 2008 as part of a DEA sting and was sentenced to 25 years. Biden commuted his sentence this week as part of Griner's release.

The New York Post said in July that trading Bout for Griner and Whelan would be a "blunder."

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