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Paul Whelan's brother urges his release years after Russia arrest

Paul Whelan's twin brother, David, joined Scripps News to discuss the challenges and frustrations associated with Paul's ongoing Russia incarceration.
Posted at 10:37 PM, Jun 15, 2023

Michigan businessman Paul Whelan has been detained in Russia for years now. 

Whelan was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison on spying charges. They are charges that both Whelan and the U.S. government deny.

Paul's twin brother, David Whelan, joined Scripps News Live to urge authorities to take more action to secure his release by Russia, and to talk about the difficulties and frustrations of Paul's continued imprisonment.

On Wednesday, in a 422-0 unanimous vote, the House of Representatives passed a resolutioncalling on Russia to release Whelan and Wall Street Journal reporterEvan Gershkovich, with the hopes of spurring a movement to return them home to the United States. 

Paul Whelan in custody

Paul Whelan's family still waiting for news of release years later

On June 15, 2020, Paul Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison on espionage charges, which both he and the U.S. government deny.

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"I think that the resolution is important because it shows - and especially with the consistency that being the third Congress that has looked at this resolution and voted on it - that the U.S. government is not going to back down. I think that sort of unwavering support is really important," said Whelan's brother David. 

"The Kremlin is all about acting like a thug, and I think you have to stand up to thugs. However, I don't think that it actually will lead to Paul's release directly, and I'm not sure that we are going to see Paul's release any time in the near future." 

Whelan’s case has gotten more attention since the release of WNBA star Britteny Griner earlier this year and the detention of Gershkovich. 

David said his family struggles with the fact that others are being released, while they continue to wait.

"I think one of the challenges, when you're going through this sort of situation as Paul has been - he's been a hostage of Russia for 4.5 years now, and I think you fight to try not to become the person you could be, which is to be angry about other people being released," he said.

David said either way, his family remains hopeful that Paul and Gershkovich will be met with the same luck as Griner.