The family of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan on Monday met with Biden administration officials amid renewed calls to release the detained American from Russian custody.
A senior White House official confirmed to The Hill that White House and State Department officials met with Whelan’s family on the matter.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a press briefing Monday that the U.S. would be “creative” and “relentless” in its efforts to secure Whelan’s release back to U.S. soil.
“We are going to be creative. We are going to 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,” Price said.
President Biden announced last week that the U.S. has secured the release of WNBA player Brittney Griner from Russia after she was detained in February. Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was part of a prisoner swap for Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer.
Griner, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, was serving a nine-year sentence at a penal colony after being found guilty of drug possession.
The White House has said that Russia was unwilling to include Whelan in the Griner-Bout prisoner exchange, insisting instead on a one-for-one deal.
Upon Griner’s release, Whelan said he was “greatly disappointed” but was happy for Griner.
Whelan has spent four years imprisoned in Russia and in 2020 was convicted on espionage charges. The U.S. has determined his detention to be unlawful and criticized the Russian criminal allegations and court process as a sham.
When Biden announced Griner’s release last week, he said Russia continued to hold Whelan for “illegitimate reasons.”
“Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case different than Brittney’s. And while we have not yet succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up. We will never give up,” Biden said.
Brett Samuels contributed.