John Kirby, Nationwide Safety Council coordinator for strategic communications, mentioned the Biden administration will proceed to work to get detained US citizen Paul Whelan again to the US after a launch was secured for Brittney Griner on Thursday.
“Viktor Bout was by no means a bargaining chip for Mr. Whelan, and the Russians persistently made that clear. So I feel we have to make that well-known. We are going to work as onerous at this time and tomorrow and the subsequent day to get Mr. Whelan residence as now we have been working since he is been in Russia wrongfully detained,” Kirby advised CNN’s Kate Bolduan.
In July, CNN reported that the Biden administration offered to exchange Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker serving a 25-year US jail sentence, as a part of a possible deal to safe the discharge of Griner and Whelan, based on folks briefed on the matter.
“It has to do with the character of the sham prices in opposition to him, which have been based mostly on espionage,” Kirby advised CNN Thursday.
Whelan, a US citizen and former Marine who was arrested in 2018 on espionage prices — which he has persistently and vehemently denied — is serving a 16-year jail sentence in Russia.
Kirby mentioned that the US is “not again to sq. one” in its negotiations for Whelan’s launch, including that “we’re going to keep at these lively discussions going ahead.”
In an exclusive call with CNN at this time, Whelan mentioned he was glad that Griner was launched however was “dissatisfied” the Biden administration had not finished extra to safe his launch.
“The stoicism, the braveness that he continues to show is not one thing that is misplaced on us right here. And I can inform you, we labored actually, actually onerous to get Mr. Whelan residence. That was all the time the purpose, to get each of them residence, and we simply could not make it work. This was the deal that we may get, and now was the second we may get it. And we simply felt the selection was both get one American residence or get none and it was necessary to at least get one residence and we’re in a position to try this,” Kirby mentioned.
Pressed on whether or not the world is extra harmful with Bout freed, Kirby mentioned, “I can guarantee you … our deal with our nationwide safety pursuits will not be going to alter. … And so with Mr. Bout being again on the road, we’re gonna keep centered on ensuring we will defend this nation.”
CNN’s Betsy Klein contributed reporting to this put up.