Sister: Paul Whelan ‘Disappointed' to Remain in Russia, But ‘We Have to Look Forward'

Elizabeth Whelan spoke with President Joe Biden before his announcement that WNBA star Brittney Griner had been freed from a Russian labor camp; her brother, businessman and former Marine Paul Whelan, remains in custody after Russia arrested him in 2018 on espionage charges

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Brittney Griner's release from a Russian prison has highlighted another U.S. citizen in the custody of Vladimir Putin's government.

Paul Whelan, a businessman and former Marine, remains at a Russian labor camp. His sister, Martha’s Vineyard resident Elizabeth Whelan, spoke with President Joe Biden before his announcement that Griner had been freed.

Biden announced that the U.S. swapped arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner, which caused backlash from some U.S. residents with Whelan still in Russia.

"He's obviously disappointed, but just like us, we see that we have to look forward," Elizabeth Whelan told NBC10 Boston. "There's no point in gnashing our teeth over what's just happened."

The Russian government was not interested in negotiating over Whelan, who was arrested in 2018 on espionage charges.

"This was not a choice of which American to bring home," Biden said Tuesday. "Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul's case differently than Britney's."

Griner was accused by the Russian government of drug trafficking with less than a gram of cannabis oil.

"As he gets older, as this sentence progresses — he's 52 now — it's going to be harder and harder for him to put up with the conditions," Elizabeth Whelan said.

She told NBC Boston that she felt Biden was committed to bringing her brother home. She is optimistic he will leave Russia before his release date in about 12 years.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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