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US Marine Veteran Imprisoned in Russia Warns That If Biden Doesn't Do Something, Moscow Will 'Keep Grabbing People'

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An imprisoned American in Russia urged the Biden administration to take “decisive action” to free him, CNN reported Saturday.

Paul Whelan, a former American Marine, was arrested in Russia in 2018 on espionage charges that both he and the U.S. government deny are true. More than 2,000 days into his imprisonment, Whelan is reflecting on the “incredible amount of time” he has had to spend in jail and is asking the Biden administration to step up and pressure Moscow into releasing him, according to CNN.

“There should be decisive action taken,” Whelan told CNN. “The US needs to go out and do something – fill up Guantanamo Bay with Russian officials, arrest Russian spies, do something that makes the Kremlin sit up and take notice and say, ‘Okay, yeah, right, now it’s time that we’re gonna get Evan and Paul back and then we want back what you’ve got of ours, and we’ll call it a day.”

“Until decisive action is taken, until there’s a strong response to this sort of behavior, they’ll keep grabbing people like Trevor (Reed) and Brittney (Griner) and Evan and others,” he told CNN.

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Whelan referenced Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was arrested in March 2023 on similar espionage charges; like Whelan, Gershkovich’s charges have been identified as false by the U.S. government. Whelan is also referencing Brittney Griner, a WNBA basketball player who was imprisoned in Russia and released in 2022, and Trevor Reed, who was arrested in 2019 and subsequently released alongside Griner in a prisoner swap deal.

“People here don’t say that they’re going to trial. They don’t say they’re going to seek justice. They say they’re going to get a sentence, they’re going to be sentenced. And that’s it. There is no criminal justice system here,” Whelan told CNN. “There is no judicial system. It’s just a system that the government has operated for many years, putting people in prison for all sorts of dubious charges and dubious events. And in my case, that’s 100% true, and I’m sure in Evan’s case, it’s 100% true. But people go to trial here and they’re automatically guilty, and then they’re given a sentence, and that’s it.”

Whelan previously criticized the Biden administration for failing to take action to secure his freedom, telling WTOP News in December that President Joe Biden “promised to bring me home” and that “diplomatic efforts have failed.” Despite being arrested before, Gershkovich, Griner and Reed, Whelan has served the longest imprisonment in Russia and has no current prospects for being freed.

The State Department said recently that freeing Whelan is “something that we are constantly working on and constantly pursuing.”

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“We put a substantial offer on the table to secure the release of Evan and Paul Whelan some months ago, as we said publicly; we’re continuing to work to secure their release,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters last week. “We don’t talk about the details of that publicly, as has always been the case, but it is one of the Secretary and the President’s highest priorities.”

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