US Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed for the first time on Thursday that the United States has made an offer to secure the release of Paul Whelan, a former US Marine held in Russian custody for more than four years.
Blinken revealed the news during a press conference in New Delhi, India, where he was attending the G-20 summit along with other foreign ministers.
Blinken said he met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov for the first time since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago.
Blinken said, “The United States has made a serious offer. Moscow must accept it.” “We are determined to bring home Paul and every other American citizen who has been unjustly detained around the world. We will not rest until we do.”
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State Department spokesman Ned Price said earlier Thursday that Blinken’s proposal was not the first time Russia has heard it.
“What [Lavrov] Hear again a strong statement from the Secretary of State that Russia must accept this offer and in return must release Paul Whelan.”
Whalen, a former US Marine, has been in Russian custody since December 28, 2018, after he was convicted of espionage and espionage for the US government and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Whelan and the US have denied the allegations as the 52-year-old is imprisoned in a labor camp in Russia’s Republic of Mordovia.
Whalen’s case has been compared to that of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was released from Russian custody last December after spending less than a year in prison. Griner was arrested in February after authorities discovered vape cartridges containing small amounts of cannabis oil in his luggage.
The Biden administration had initially sought the release of both Griner and Whalen in exchange for Viktor Bout, a Russian national serving a prison sentence in the US. Colloquially known as the “Merchant of Death”, he was convicted of conspiracy to kill Americans in 2011 and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
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The Biden administration eventually agreed to exchange the bout for Griner alone, leaving Whelan behind in Russia.
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