SAN DIEGO — David Whelan, the brother of Russian prisoner and Marine veteran Paul Whelan, says his family is very disappointed their loved one was not included in the prisoner swap involving U.S. basketball star Britney Griner and a Russian arms dealer.
“He (Paul) was much more certain that things were going to happen that would bring him home and he had been thinking about ‘where will I live when I get back?’ I’m not sure that he will be as hopeful today. If he’s like me, I have very little hope,” said David Whelan in an interview with NewsNation.
David Whelan, who lives in San Diego, said the White House notified the family Wednesday that his brother was not part of a prisoner deal.
“It’s a good positive change in that he’s not learning this from Russian TV. He’s not learning it from our parents — that the U.S. government is stepping forward and taking responsibility for their citizen and for communicating this information to their citizen,” Whelan said.
Paul Whelan is being held in a Russian labor camp. He was arrested in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years for espionage.
His family maintains he was in no way a spy, but was only in Moscow for a friend’s wedding. President Biden says Russia is treating Whelan’s case differently for “illegitimate reasons.”
“My guess is that it’s because Paul’s been classified as a spy and from the very start he was falsely entrapped. He was sent through a kangaroo court and just a completely bogus investigation,” David Whelan said.
David Whelan says his parents regularly talk with his brother, who he believes is using survival training he learned with the Marines, in order to endure his detainment, mentally and physically.
“He gets up every morning and sings the national anthem — I think as much to irritate the guards as much to keep his own morale up. I think he is determined to survive, but I think you have to wonder how long he can continue to do that,” David Whelan said.