Biden meets with Paul Whelan’s sister at White House

Former Marine Paul Whelan spoke exclusively with WTOP's J.J. Green from a Russian prison. He has now been wrongfully held for more than 5 years, and says he feels like President Biden has left him behind.
Elizabeth Whelan, sister of US Marine Corps veteran and Russian prisoner Paul Whelan, speaks at a news conference alongside families of Americans being held hostage or wrongfully detained overseas in Lafayette Park near the White House, in Washington, DC, in May 2022.

(CNN) — President Joe Biden met Wednesday with the sister of Paul Whelan, an American who has been designated as wrongfully detained in Russia, the White House said.

Elizabeth Whelan’s meeting with the president and national security adviser Jake Sullivan was held to “discuss the Administration’s continued efforts to secure Paul’s release from Russia,” the White House said in a statement.

The former Marine who is a US, Irish, British and Canadian citizen marked five years in Russian detention last month. He was arrested in Moscow in 2018, which he says he visited for a friend’s wedding, and imprisoned on charges of espionage that he has consistently and vehemently denied.

The White House said that “immediately following the meeting, the President called the parents of Paul Whelan.”

Biden, the White House noted, “has been personally engaged in the effort to secure the release of Americans held hostages and wrongfully detained around the world,” including Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter who is also detained Russia.

In a call with CNN from his prison camp last month, Paul Whelan called on Biden to “please use every resource available to secure my release as you would do if your own son had been taken hostage.”

Wednesday’s meeting comes months after Elizabeth Whelan traveled to Washington, DC, to meet with administration and congressional officials. In September, she told CNN that though she admired the work being done by the Biden administration on her brother’s behalf, she felt they haven’t leveraged all possible efforts to secure his release.

In several conversations with CNN, Paul Whelan has denounced the fact that he was not included in the 2022 prisoner swaps that freed fellow wrongfully detained Americans Trevor Reed and WNBA star Brittney Griner. US officials have said that the Russians refused to include him in those swaps.

CNN previously reported that the Biden administration has put forward several “significant” proposals to the Russians for Paul Whelan, one of which was presented and rejected in late November to try to bring home both him and Gershkovich.

CNN’s Jennifer Hansler, Aileen Graef and Kayla Tausche contributed to this report.

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