U.S. submits ‘serious’ plan to get Paul Whelan back from Russia
Paul Whelan

According to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, there is a "serious proposal" in the works for securing the release of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan from Russian prison, CNN reported on Thursday.

"US officials have long stressed their commitment to bringing home Whelan, who has been detained in Russia since 2018, but the public disclosure that a deal is on the table marks a notable development in those efforts," reported Jennifer Hansler. "In a 'brief engagement' with Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers meeting Thursday, Blinken said he pressed the Russian foreign minister on Whelan’s detention and the offer. 'The United States has put forward a serious proposal. Moscow should accept it,' Blinken said at a news conference following the meeting with Lavrov."

State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to reveal details of the proposal, but said it "was not a proposal that the Russians heard for the first time today" and it is a plan "that we have conveyed to them consistently in the past."

Whelan was convicted by the Russian government of espionage on behalf of the United States. Whelan denies this, and there is no credible evidence to support the Russian charges.

Observers had hoped that the United States would be able to secure Whelan's release alongside that of basketball star Brittney Griner, who was arrested in Russia in February 2022 for traveling with cannabis oil and sentenced to nine years in prison. Ultimately, Griner was successfully freed in return for Viktor Bout, a convicted arms trafficker due for release in coming years anyway — but the Russians did not accept a deal to release Whelan.

Part of the issue is that because Whelan was convicted of espionage, Russia is demanding what they see as an equivalent trade of a Russian accused of spying against the West. The Kremlin floated the idea of exchanging Whelan for Vladim Krasikov, an assassin serving a life sentence for murder in Germany, but the U.S. doesn't have authority to demand his release from the German government.