US citizen Paul Whelan, who was convicted in Russia of espionage, said that he felt abandoned. The United States is not making enough efforts to help him return home. The State Department recently announced that it made a new offer to exchange the former Marine, but the Russian side rejected it.
Whelan feels betrayed as all of Washington's promises turned out to be empty, the BBC said. It has been five years, Whelan said, but nothing is happening. It is very hard for the American to realise that he could return home many years ago, as his life is slipping away.
The US has plenty of exchange proposals, but the Russians do not want that. The Americans go back and forth like they're throwing spaghetti at the wall, Whelan said.
Whelan was not included in at least two previous prisoner exchanges between the US and Russia. In April 2022, US student Trevor Reed, convicted in Russia, was exchanged for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko. In December of the same year, Russian Viktor Bout, convicted in the United States for attempted arms trafficking and supporting terrorism, was exchanged for American basketball player Brittney Griner, who was accused in Russia of drug trafficking.
In early December, the US State Department delivered a new proposal to Russia to exchange Whelan, as well as Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested on similar charges. The Russian side rejected the proposal, diplomats said.
Whelan, who previously served in the US Marine Corps and also has British, Irish and Canadian citizenships, was detained in Moscow on December 28, 2018. His brother said that he came to Russia for a wedding celebration. Russian security officials claimed that a flash drive that was seized from Whelan contained secret information on it. Whelan's lawyer countered that it was personal information about his previous vacations in Russia.
Whelan himself said that he was arrested out of revenge for US sanctions against Russia. In June 2020, he was found guilty of espionage and sentenced to 16 years in a maximum security colony. Whelan does not plead guilty to the charges.
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