Here's What Russia Wanted in Exchange for Whelan

Officials pushed for release of Vadim Krasikov, detained in Germany: CNN
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 13, 2022 12:45 PM CST
Here's What Russia Wanted in Exchange for Whelan
Paul Whelan, a former US Marine who was arrested for alleged spying, listens to the verdict in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, June 15, 2020.   (Sofia Sandurskaya, Moscow News Agency photo via AP, File)

The family of Paul Whelan is holding out hope that "the third time is the charm." Referencing the releases this year of other Russian detainees Trevor Reed and Brittney Griner, the family said Monday it has faith that freeing Whelan remains a top priority for the Biden administration. Whelan's sister Elizabeth had a meeting with administration officials on Monday, which showed they are "not letting grass grow under their feet," a family statement read, per the Hill. It came a day after criticism from former President Trump, who said he refused to exchange Whelan for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. Biden approved Bout's release from US custody last week in exchange for Griner, a WNBA star who says she unknowingly carried outlawed cannabis oil into Russia.

The administration said Russia refused to include Whelan, a former US Marine convicted of espionage, in the deal. CNN reports Russia wanted the US to secure the release of Vadim Krasikov, a former colonel in the Russian army now serving a life sentence in Germany for the 2019 assassination of a Georgia national who fought against Russia in the Chechen War. "US officials made quiet inquiries to the Germans about whether they might be willing to include Krasikov in the trade … but ultimately, the US was not able to secure Krasikov's release," per the outlet, which adds the US proposed releasing other jailed Russians, including cybercriminal Roman Seleznev, the son of a Russian lawmaker, and Alexander Vinnik, who's facing charges including hacking and extortion.

But the Russians wanted a spy for a spy. "We have shown an openness to talk about that which is actually available to us and gotten only in response a demand for something not available to us," an administration official told CNN last week. The discussions between US and Russian officials continue with "high level" talks set for this week, which the Whelan family described as "positive news." "These initial steps give us hope that the third time is the charm," the statement said. State Department rep Ned Price said officials would "be relentless in working with Paul Whelan's family, his loved ones, and in turn with the Russians, to do everything we can to see this case resolved as soon as we can," per the BBC. (More Paul Whelan stories.)

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