Former US Marine Held In Russian Prison Tells Biden To ‘Man Up’ And Secure His Release

(Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

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Jake Smith Contributor
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An American trapped in a Russian prison told President Joe Biden on Christmas Eve to “man up” and secure his release, WTOP News, a Washington, D.C.-area outlet, reported on Monday.

Paul Whelan is a former American marine who has been held in Russian prison for five years on espionage charges that both he and the U.S. government deny. Whelan criticized Biden for failing to secure his release – even after promising to do so – and lamented his worsening conditions in a Russian labor camp where he was attacked in November, according to WTOP News. (RELATED: REPORT: Family Of US Marine Veteran Says He Was Attacked In Russian Prison)

“Mr. President… You promised to bring me home. I’m still here. There has to be more that you can do to secure my release.” Whelan said during a phone interview with WTOP News. “The concern that I have is that diplomatic efforts have failed and not enough is being done to secure my release from the very top.”

Paul Whelan stands inside a defendants' cage in a Moscow, Russia court on June 15, 2020. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images)

Paul Whelan stands inside a defendants’ cage in a Moscow, Russia court on June 15, 2020. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images)

Whelan noted that he has received notable support from both chambers of Congress, as well as from the State Department and the National Security Council, according to WTOP News. Whelan instead pointed his criticism directly at Biden, naming him as the man who “made the decision to leave me behind twice.”

“My message to him is quite simply: I’ve been told that everyone is doing all they can and that my release is a top priority,” Whelan told WTOP News. “Promises have been made, and I need everyone who has made those promises to now man up and honor them.”

Whelan told WTOP News that the Biden administration lost negotiating leverage with Russia after it worked to secure the release of two American citizens, WBNA player Brittney Griner and former Marine Trevor Reed, in 2022.

“They (the U.S. government) basically abandoned me here without any options for a future trade,” Whelan told WTOP News.

“They have no bargaining position now,” Whelan said. “And knowing that the government has done that is quite depressing. And regardless of all the promises that are being made and all the optimism that I’m hearing, I’m still here.”

Whelan discussed his conditions as a prisoner working in a Russian labor camp, noting the toll isolation has taken on him that was especially poignant during the Christmas season, according to WTOP News. He also discussed the danger of working in such an environment around criminals and hostile prisoner officials; Whelan was attacked by an inmate in late November.

“I’m quite depressed. As a matter of fact, I mean, it’s Christmastime. I’m away from family. I’ve been here five years. I’m surrounded by criminals. It’s not a healthy environment,” Whelan told WTOP News.

The White House said in a statement that there’s “no higher priority” for Biden than securing the release of Whelan, according to WTOP News. The White House also noted it has made “significant” offers to Russia, including one this month, in exchange for Whelan’s release, but has thus far been denied.

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