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Paul Whelan tells Blinken leaving him out of prisoner swap was like a 'death warrant'

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who is imprisoned in Russia, told Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an August phone call that leaving him out of a second prisoner swap was like signing “a death warrant.”

“I told him, point blank, that leaving me here the first time painted a target on my back, and leaving me here the second time basically signed a death warrant,” Whelan told CNN in an phone interview from his prison camp on Friday.

Whelan, 53, said he also told Blinken that “unless they got me back, it could be quite challenging in the future, especially with my age and the sort of work we have to do from a health and safety point of view.”

The Biden administration has negotiated two known prisoner swaps, securing the releases of Trevor Reed in April 2022 and of WNBA star Brittney Griner in December 2022. 

Whelan in his conversation with CNN rreiterated his confidence in Blinken and in the administration. Whelan has previously stated that he has gotten assurances from the United States that officials are working hard to secure his return.

Whelan praised Blinken as “a person who obviously cares and he cares deeply about the situation,” and said Blinken “told me that he’s working quite diligently and his team is working quite diligently to find a resolution to this situation.” 

Whelan also acknowledged that Russians view him as “high value, so they want something high value in return.”

“I think everyone’s trying to do the right thing, and I know that this will come to an end at some point. How long it will take I don’t know. But I’m being promised that I won’t be left behind here,” Whelan said.

Whelan was arrested in Moscow in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison on an espionage charge in 2020. He has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and the United States considers Whelan wrongfully detained.

Source: The Hill

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