On Christmas Eve, an American prisoner in Russia instructed President Joe Biden to “man up” and secure his release, according to WTOP News, a Washington, D.C.-area outlet, which published the information on Monday.
Former American Marine Paul Whelan has been incarcerated in Russia for five years on espionage allegations that are denied by both Whelan and the United States government. According to WTOP News, Whelan expressed disapproval of Biden’s inability to secure his release despite his assurances of doing so and bemoaned the deteriorating conditions in the Russian labor camp where he was assaulted in November.
“Mr. President, you promised to bring me home. I’m still here. There has to be more that you can do to secure my release,” Whelan said during a phone interview with WTOP News. “The concern that I have is that diplomatic efforts have failed and not enough is being done to secure my release from the very top.”
Significant support has been extended to him by the State Department, the National Security Council, and both chambers of Congress, according to Whelan. In contrast, Whelan directed his disapproval squarely at Biden, specifically attributing his actions to the individual who “made the decision to leave me behind twice.”
“My message to him is quite simply, I’ve been told that everyone is doing all they can and that my release is a top priority,” Whelan told WTOP News. “Promises have been made, and I need everyone who has made those promises to now man up and honor them.”
Whelan stated to WTOP News that the Biden administration’s efforts to secure the release of two American citizens, former Marine Trevor Reed and WBNA athlete Brittney Griner, in 2022, diminished its negotiating leverage with Russia.
Whelan told WTOP News, “They (the U.S. government) basically abandoned me here without any options for a future trade.”
“They have no bargaining position now,” Whelan said. “And knowing that the government has done that is quite depressing. And regardless of all the promises that are being made and all the optimism that I’m hearing, I’m still here.”
Whelan recounted his ordeal as a prisoner in a Russian labor camp, emphasizing that the toll of isolation had become particularly poignant for him, particularly in the lead up to the holiday season. Additionally, he warned of the perils associated with operating in such a setting, which includes hostile prison officials and criminals.
“I’m quite depressed. As a matter of fact, I mean, it’s Christmastime. I’m away from family. I’ve been here five years. I’m surrounded by criminals. It’s not a healthy environment,” Whelan clarified.
Bryden has “no higher priority” than ensuring the release of Whelan, according to a statement from the White House. Additionally, the White House stated that it has made “significant” proposals to Russia in exchange for Whelan’s release, including one this month, which have been rejected thus far.