On Thursday’s broadcast of CNN’s “Situation Room,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price stated that the Biden administration proposed that Russia release both Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner and wished Whelan had been released along with Griner, but “the other side gets a vote. In this case, the other side, the Russians, they get a veto. They vetoed the proposals that we put on the table to secure Paul Whelan’s release today.” And the Russians “Just in recent days” agreed to the swap for Griner’s release.
Price said, “Well, Wolf, this is something that we had been working [on] assiduously for months. We first made public in July the fact that, in the preceding weeks, we had made what we called at the time a substantial proposal to the Russians to release both Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner. We’ve gone back and forth with the Russians in the ensuing weeks. We proposed various permutations, various alternatives to that original, significant proposal that we initially passed to them. Just in recent days did the Russians make clear that they were willing to go for the deal, Brittney Griner for Viktor Bout. As you heard from Secretary Blinken, this was not a question of getting both Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan home. This was not a question of us having to choose between Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. This was a decision for us that essentially came down to one or none. And so, of course, we took the deal that was on the table to bring Brittney Griner home, at the same time, reaffirming the commitment we’ve made…that we are going to continue to do absolutely everything we can to bring Paul Whelan home just as soon as we can.”
He added, “Look, we wish nothing more than for Paul Whelan to have been on that plane today with Brittney Griner. Going back to earlier this year, we wished nothing more than for Brittney Griner and for Paul Whelan to have been on the plane with Trevor Reed…whose release we secured from Russian custody in April. We made good on our promise to come back for Brittney Griner. We are going to make good on our promise to get Paul Whelan out. Unfortunately, Wolf, as you know, when it comes to these matters, the other side gets a vote. In this case, the other side, the Russians, they get a veto. They vetoed the proposals that we put on the table to secure Paul Whelan’s release today. As you heard from the Secretary, they do treat Paul Whelan differently. They have these sham espionage charges attached to him. Nevertheless, that does not sap our determination, it does not sap our drive to do everything we can to get Paul Whelan back home with his family.”
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