(The Hill) — The sister of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was arrested in Russia while traveling as a tourist over three years ago, said she was “crushed” after Joe Biden’s call to jailed American basketball star Brittney Griner’s wife on Wednesday.
Quote-tweeting a press release from the White House, Elizabeth Whelan urged the president to discuss ways to secure her brother’s release.
“Still looking for that press release saying @POTUS has spoken to anyone in OUR family about #PaulWhelan, wrongfully detained in #Russia for 3.5 years,” she wrote.
“I am crushed. If he wants to talk about securing Paul’s release, he needs to be talking to the Whelans! What are we to think?!” she added.
Her tweet follows a call from Biden and Vice President Harris to Cherelle Griner. The White House said Biden and Harris assured Cherelle Griner that they are providing “all possible assistance” to bring home Brittney Griner, who has been in detention in Russia since February.
Biden’s call to Cherelle Griner came after her she told CBS it was “very disheartening” not to have heard from the president directly. Brittney Griner also wrote a letter to Biden, urging him not to “forget about me and the other American detainees.”
“I don’t begrudge Ms. Griner and her supporters their success in getting the president’s attention while he ignores so many other families,” Paul Whelan’s twin brother, David, said of Cherelle Griner’s interview, according to The Detroit News.
“It suggests the only way to get the White House’s attention, under President Trump or President Biden, is to have celebrity and wealth and resources that most wrongful detainees do not have,” he added.
David Whelan said the family will have to “wait and see,” adding that Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Paul Whelan’s case still remains a priority.
“At some level, we take that at face value,” he said. “Unfortunately, if it unfolds that Ms. Griner is released and Paul isn’t, again, we’ll be faced with the same question we were with the release of Trevor Reed: Is the White House only working on the cases when the president takes the time to call? And how do families explain that to their loved ones?”
Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Russia for three and a half years, is serving a 16-year sentence of hard labor at a prison camp in Mordovia. He was arrested for alleged spying in Moscow.
Earlier this year, Russia released another prisoner, U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, in a prisoner swap.