Skip to Content

‘The right decision:’ David Whelan on Brittney Griner prisoner swap

By Natasha O’Neill, writer

Click here for updates on this story

    TORONTO (CTV Network) — American pro-basketball player Brittney Griner was released from a Russian prison Friday, but the deal to free her excluded U.S. marine Paul Whelan, who has been jailed for nearly four years.

But the deal was the right call, Whelan’s brother told CTV News Channel on Sunday.

The U.S and Russia agreed to the terms of a prisoner swap, allowing Griner to be released in exchange for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Criticism of the decision followed, because the U.S. did not strike a deal to release both Griner and Whelan at the same time.

David Whelan, Paul’s brother, told CTV News Channel on Sunday the agreement was Griner for Bout or neither.

“I think that Biden did what an American president should do,” Whelan said. “He was able to bring home either an American, or he would leave two Americans behind and he brought one home, and that’s the right decision.”

Paul Whelan, who was born in Canada, and joined the U.S. marines, was arrested on alleged espionage charges in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison.

Griner was arrested on drug charges at an airport in January for carrying cannabis oil in her luggage. She was sentenced to nine years in prison in August and was moved to a penal colony.

David Whelan says the family is disappointed his brother was not released but said they were made aware of the Griner-Bout deal early and were able to process the decision.

“We thought it might be a (swap) two for two, or three (for three), we really didn’t have any sense,” Whelan said. “Other than that, we knew the Russian government was negotiating in bad faith asking for things that the U.S. government couldn’t have done.”

Whelan says the possibility his brother wouldn’t return home on this prisoner swap was understood when the two governments started negotiating.

“He’s (Paul) obviously disappointed that he was not brought home,” Whelan said. “This is the second time, there’s been an exchange that he was left behind on. I think he’s recalibrating and preparing to keep going for the long haul, with the hope.”

Griner is an openly gay Black woman with prominence in the women’s basketball world. These factors heightened concerns for her safety in Russia where authorities have been hostile to the LGBTQIA2S+ community.

Whelan said his parents speak with Paul every day on the phone, and the situation is more delicate during the holidays.

“Paul has been thinking about coming home … had been talking about where he’d live,” Whelan said, adding his parents are “probably taking it pretty hard as we get close to Christmas.”

Until his brother is released, Whelan said he and the family will continue researching and advocating for Paul’s return home.

“Paul is in the Russian labour camp. He needs our support to survive, and so we are going to continue to do that,” Whelan said.

Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Regional

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource


ABC 17 News is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content