President Biden on quest to free Paul Whelan from Russian prison: 'we will never give up'

Paul Whelan, a Novi native, remains in a Russian prison after Brittney Griner freed
Paul Whelan sentencing
Posted at 9:09 AM, Dec 08, 2022

(WXYZ) — Early Thursday morning, officials confirmed that WNBA Player Brittney Griner was released from a Russian prison. She had been detained in Russia for nearly 9 months.

RELATED: WNBA star Brittney Griner freed in US-Russia prisoner swap

Novi native Paul Whelan has also been incarcerated in a Russian prison. He's been there for nearly four years, but was not part of the exchange.

Throughout Griner's time in jail, U.S. officials and public figures worked to release both Griner and Whelan from prison through a prisoner exchange.

The family of Paul Whelan released a statement Thursday morning, saying they are happy for the Griner family. In the statement they said, "I can literally only imagine the joy she will have, being reunited with her loved ones, and in time for the holidays. There is no greater success than for a wrongful detainee to be freed and for them to go home. The Biden Administration made the right decision to bring Ms. Griner home, and to make the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn't going to happen."

Paul Whelan's brother, David, speaks on Paul's condition in Russian prison

David Whelan said the Biden administration warned his family on Wednesday that Griner would be released from prison without Paul. It's a tale that the Whelan family has heard before after watching their family member remain in prison while other Americans were freed.

"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 sentiments I shared in April about Trevor are unchanged: this is the event we wish for so much for our own family. She will be reunited with her family. Brittney is free. And Paul is still a hostage. But how many more times do I need to write that," Whelan's brother writes in a statement. "At some level, our family has steeled ourselves for this likelihood. And I think, as the use of wrongful detentions and hostage diplomacy continues around the globe, it's clear the US government needs to be more assertive. If bad actors like Russia are going to grab innocent Americans, the US needs a swifter, more direct response, and to be prepared in advance."

The family has launched a GoFundMe to continue to fight for his release.

'We've not forgotten about Paul Whelan,' said President Biden

During a press conference Thursday morning, President Biden said they have not forgotten about Whelan and promised to continue fighting for his case.

"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," said President Biden.