Brother of ex-Marine detained by Russia says he's 'cautiously optimistic' about swap

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to reporters as spokesman Ned Price (L) listens during a press briefing at the U.S. Department of State on July 27, 2022 in Washington, DC. Blinken discussed plans to meet with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov for the first time since the invasion of Ukraine, and negotiations to bring imprisoned Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan home from Russia. Photo credit Anna Rose Layden/Getty Images

The brother of a former U.S. Marine currently being held on espionage charges in Russia says there is no way his brother is a spy and is now "cautiously optimistic" about a positive outcome.

“My brother is a lot of things, but he is absolutely not a spy,” David Whelan, the brother of Paul Whelan, recently said in an interview on WCBS 880.

David’s twin brother Paul was arrested in December 2018 while visiting Moscow for a friend's wedding. He was charged with espionage by Russian intelligence officials. In June 2020, Paul was convicted of those charges and sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison camp.

David described his brother as a tourist who was simply in Russia to attend a wedding.

“It’s always been remarkable to me that someone like him could be caught up in something like this,” he said.

Paul Whelan received a bad conduct discharge from the Marines in 2008 after he was convicted of larceny. He later worked as a global security executive for the auto parts supplier BorgWarner.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June announced an offer to swap Whalen and WNBA star Britney Griner in exchange for the release of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is known as the Merchant of Death.

“It’s now a matter of whether they want to act in their self-interests or if they want to try and negotiate some kind of definite agreement, so we’re cautiously optimistic it will be a positive step,” David said of the proposed deal.

Griner has been held in Russia on marijuana possession charges since February.

David said Griner’s celebrity has helped to shine a light on about 50 Americans currently being held against their will in foreign lands.
Both Paul and American officials have repeatedly denied the espionage charges made against him.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Anna Rose Layden/Getty Images