Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was imprisoned in Russia for spying, believes that U.S. President Joe Biden should demand the release of U.S. nationals arrested in Russia at his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, The Moscow Times reports.
Biden said on Sunday that when the two meet in Geneva on June 16, he intends to question Putin on human rights violations. He made no mention of the predicament of American citizens imprisoned in Russia, including former Marine Trevor Reed, who is serving a nine-year term for a drunken assault on police.
Whelan told CNN that he “knows” Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are “working for my freedom and return to the United States.”
Whelan talked to CNN many months after his Russian lawyer informed Reuters that Moscow and Washington were discussing a prisoner exchange in which he may be brought home.
The story was refuted by Moscow officials, and Whelan’s brother David subsequently told The Moscow Times that “there doesn’t appear to be any serious effort by any one person” working toward his release. Previous rumors of a prospective prisoner swap have been dismissed by Russia as a “pressure campaign” aimed at extracting “unilateral concessions” from Moscow.
Whelan, 51, was sentenced to 16 years in prison by a Moscow court in June 2020 after being found guilty of acquiring secret material in an exclusive Moscow hotel in 2018.
Whelan, who is Irish, Canadian, and British, maintains his innocence, telling CNN that “there was no crime, no proof, and the secret trial was a hoax.”