(UnitedHeadlines.com) – Russia has incarcerated Paul Whelan, a former US Marine, for the last three years, during which he felt certain an upcoming prisoner swap would be sending him home. Sentenced to 16 years for espionage, a charge the inmate vehemently denies, Whelan adamantly claims he received anything but a fair trial. Now, with the recent release of US basketball player Brittney Grimes, the former military man is feeling left behind once more.
— New York Post (@nypost) December 8, 2022
Arrested for Espionage
Whelan told the BBC he traveled to Russia as a tourist and made friends with a man who liked “running around with a foreigner.” The man, who turned out to be a member of Russia’s FSB security service, alleged his foreign acquaintance was working for US military intelligence. He had the American arrested for supposedly accepting a flash drive containing “names and photos of students from the border guard school.”
According to Russian intelligence, Whelan had previously completed a wire transfer for funds to pay for the information. The inmate called the arrest “a farce,” saying that money had gone to purchase a new phone for his wife. He’d heard talk of prisoner swaps — specifically for the release of Viktor Bout, an illegal arms trader imprisoned in the United States, and Konstantin Yaroshenko, a convicted drug smuggler, and hoped Russia might use him as leverage for a trade.
The Recent Swap
Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko would see their freedom, but Whelan would not be a part of the trades. Russia traded former US Marine Trevor Reed for Yaroshenko. Reed had received a nine-year prison sentence for attacking Russian police officers during a drunken blackout. He was visiting his girlfriend, who lived in Moscow. The Washington Post quotes the traded Marine as calling the entire ordeal “clearly political.”
Later, in exchange for Bout, Russian authorities agreed to release Brittney Grimes, who found herself in foreign custody after attempting to bring a THC-infused vape pen into the country. According to Reuters, she’d claimed it helped her with chronic pain and said bringing it had been an “honest mistake.” For the indiscretion, she received a nine-year prison sentence.
President Biden had attempted to add Whelan into the fray, but because Russia considers him a spy, the Kremlin sees him as a special case. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told Reuters the White House had a choice but to take Grimes in this latest deal or no one.
Officials continue to work toward Whelan’s release, but no further updates are available.
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