Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council John Kirby said Thursday that the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs holds a bi-weekly call with her to provide updates on her brother’s status, and that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan had spoken directly with Elizabeth Whelan.
Paul Whelan has been imprisoned in Russia for more than three years after being convicted on espionage charges that he vehemently denies. He was sentenced in June 2020 to 16 years in prison in a trial US officials denounced as unfair.
“I think all of us, and certainly the President, understands the anguish, the fear, the uncertainty and certainly the longing that the family — Elizabeth in particular — is enduring right now,” Kirby told reporters. “He understands that, and he’s made it clear to the entire team that he wants every effort made to do what we can to get Paul home as well.”
Kirby said, “I don’t have a conversation or a phone call to speak to today specifically in terms of the President but as I said earlier, we have stayed in constant touch with Ms. Whelan.”
“Look, I’ve been in the job a month and I’ve seen literally every day, I’ve seen the President engage … on these cases,” Kirby said. “I can just assure you when we say it’s top of mind, we really mean it. It’s top of mind.”
Elizabeth Whelan told CNN’s Jennifer Hansler on Wednesday that she didn’t want to detract from the effort being made to secure Brittney Griner’s release, but questioned why her family had not received a phone call from Biden and why her brother had not received a letter from the President, noting it appeared the White House was “showing favoritism.”
“I want Brittney home as much as anybody else does. But why is Paul not getting the same type of level of attention? Why are the Whelans not getting a call? Why is Paul not going to have a letter written by the President? (Paul’s) made plenty of statements to the President,” Whelan said. “I’m really angry. I’m really angry.”
Biden wrote a letter in response to Brittney Griner’s handwritten letter to him, and shared a draft of it with Cherelle Griner during their phone call. Griner wrote she is afraid that she could be detained in Russia indefinitely.
Griner has pleaded guilty to drug charges in a Russian court near Moscow, her lawyers confirmed to CNN on Thursday. Griner, whom the US State Department has classified as wrongfully detained, faces up to 10 years in prison under the charge.
Earlier this year Trevor Reed, a US citizen and former Marine who had been detained in Russia since 2019, was released in a prisoner swap. Whelan questioned why he was left behind in a statement to his parents and shared with CNN.
Quoted from Various Sources
Published for: Mr Blow Up