American officials will hold talks with Russian leaders “this week” about negotiations to release former Marine Paul Whelan, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Monday.
“Regarding whether we have reached an understanding with the Russian Federation on the Whelan case, we will be reaching out to them this week,” Sullivan told reporters.
Sullivan was not asked about, and did not address, the case of American Marc Fogel – who, like Whelan, was left behind last week when President Biden signed a prisoner swap in which the US released convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for basketball player Brittney Griner.
Bout, 55, was found guilty in 2011 of crimes including supporting terrorists and conspiring to assassinate Americans and was serving a 25-year sentence. He was snapped for conspiring to sell anti-aircraft missiles to Colombian FARC rebels after previously arming other notorious movements around the world.
Sullivan refused to say if he thought Bout was a “terrorist” when asked directly Monday.
“He is not listed as a specially designated national. We believe he is a convicted criminal – convicted of arms trafficking and other crimes,” he said.
“He was imprisoned for 12 years. He should be released in 2029. And, of course, before we make a decision about sending someone back as part of a deal to have an American home, we make a decision about the national security implications.”
Whelan, 52, was arrested in Russia in 2018 and eventually sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage. His defense attorney said Whelan was arrested with a USB stick allegedly containing Russian “state secrets”, although he had been told it contained only pictures of churches.
Fogel, 61, was arrested in August 2021 for possessing 17 grams of what he believed to be medical marijuana. The former history teacher, like Griner, was arrested in Moscow when the pot was found in his luggage.
Fogel was sentenced to 14 years in prison in June – just over a month before Griner was sentenced to nine years after pleading guilty to traveling with a small amount of cannabis oil.
The US government requested Fogel’s release on humanitarian grounds, CNN reported in August, but Washington reportedly didn’t include him in a planned prisoner swap between Griner and Whelan.
https://nypost.com/2022/12/12/us-talking-with-russia-this-week-about-paul-whelan-jake-sullivan/ US talks to Russia ‘this week’ on Paul Whelan: Jake Sullivan