Biden speaks to family of Paul Whelan as quest to return him from Russia continues

Whelan has been detained in Russia for 3 years

Whelan has been held for three years in Russia on espionage charges.

The push to bring Paul Whelan back home to the United States intensifies as President Joe Biden spoke to Whelan’s family.

Whelan remains detained in Russia, where he’s been held for more than three years on espionage charges.

David Whelan, Paul’s brother, said the phone call from President Biden comes after a week full of emotions.

“It’s always hard when there’s something that relates to Paul’s case, but isn’t actually Paul’s case,” said Whelan.

Cases like Olympic Gold Medalist and WNBA star Brittany Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February 2022, have been difficult for the Whelan family to watch. Earlier this week, Paul’s sister, Elizabeth Whelan criticized the White House, saying they weren’t giving Paul the same level of attention.

On Friday, the Whelan family got a surprise when President Biden called Elizabeth. She had just spoken with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Thursday.

“We do have a certain amount of communication at lower levels of the state department about Paul’s case, obviously, we speak to the embassy on a regular basis to make sure that he’s actually healthy and well. But when you have the president call, it’s obviously a huge honor to have the president speak to you and to reassure you about your loved one’s case,” said David Whelan. “I think it’s symbolic. I don’t actually think that a presidential call means anything in the sense of it doesn’t mean that something’s about to happen. It doesn’t mean that progress has been made that wasn’t going to be made otherwise.”

But it does bring an extra boost in the push to bring his brother home.

“A lot of this drama of the last week has been useful to raise awareness about Paul’s case. I think there are many, many more people who know about Paul Whelan and how long he’s been detained by the Russian government,” Whelan said.

He said the hard work to get his brother to the U.S. hasn’t stopped. Paul has 13 years left in his sentence.

“There isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel yet. And I think when the light actually comes, it will be very quick and unexpected. And right now, it’s really mostly a matter of slogging on until we get to the point where we see some success,” David Whelan said.

About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.