Jul 8, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden tells Paul Whelan's sister he's working to bring ex-Marine home

Paul Whelan, a former US marine accused of espionage and arrested in Russia.
Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine arrested in Russia, stands in a defendant's cage. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images.

President Biden had a phone call Friday with the sister of Paul Whelan, an American who has been detained in Russia for more than three years.

Driving the news: Biden told Elizabeth Whelan that the United States will work to bring home her brother, WNBA star Brittany Griner and other detained Americans from Russia, per a White House official.

  • The Biden administration will continue speaking with Whelan's family and provide updates on what's being done to secure the detainee's release, the White House said.

Flashback: Elizabeth Whelan criticized Biden on Wednesday for not speaking to her family about her brother after the president spoke with Cherelle Griner about her wife, WNBA star Brittney Griner, who is also detained.

  • "If he wants to talk about securing Paul's release, he needs to be talking to the Whelans!" she tweeted on Wednesday. "What are we to think?!
  • She also told CNN that she wanted to see more outreach from the Biden administration to all the families of Americans detained by Russia.
  • "What we really need is action for all of these cases," she told CNN. "I really do believe the United States government is doing everything it can to bring Paul and Brittney home. But when it comes to the public outreach, perhaps the Whelan family does need that meeting with the president."

The big picture: Whelan's situation echoes Cherelle Griner, who criticized the Biden administration for not responding to a letter sent by Brittney Griner from Russia.

Whelan was arrested in Moscow in December 2018, Axios reports. He was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years on spying charges.

  • His lawyer said he was framed in a sting operation and was handed a flash drive that had classified information without his knowledge.
  • Whelan and his brother David argue the charges are political.
Go deeper