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US, Russia to discuss imprisoned former US Marine after much-criticized swap of Griner for “Merchant of Death”

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Paul Whelan (Courtesy photo)

Jordan Fabian and Justin Sink

Bloomberg News

(TNS)

WASHINGTON — U.S. and Russian officials will speak this week about detained American Paul Whelan, a former Marine whose release the Biden administration unsuccessfully sought along with WNBA star Brittney Griner.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday a “conversation at a high level will take place this week” regarding Whelan’s case, but did not specify what day it would occur or which representatives would participate.

President Joe Biden’s administration is facing criticism for negotiating the release of Griner in exchange for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, while failing to bring home Whelan, who has been jailed since 2018 on espionage charges the U.S. calls unjustified.

“The big challenge we had over the course of the past several months is that what Russia was asking for to secure Paul Whelan’s release was not something that we had to be able to give,” Sullivan said. “That is a problem we are trying to solve.”

Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in jail in Russia in 2020. He was arrested in December 2018 while attending a wedding in Moscow after receiving a flash drive with “state secrets” that he said he thought contained holiday pictures.

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