David Whelan ‘cautiously optimistic’ Russians will accept prisoner exchange for Paul, Griner

Posted at 2:08 PM, Jul 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-28 14:08:30-04

(WXYZ) — The brother of Paul Whelan, the metro Detroit man who has been imprisoned in Russia for four years, said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the Russians will take a prisoner exchange offer to bring Paul home.

David Whelan spoke to us on Thursday, one day after Secretary of State Anthony Blinked said the U.S. made a "substantial proposal" in hopes of bringing Paul and WNBA all-star Brittney Briner home.

"Yesterday was a real surprise," David said to 7 Action News. He said he's seen a lot of speculation about the offer, and that the biggest takeaway was that it must have taken the U.S. months to put together an offer.

"It may not even be the first offer they've made, and it gives you a sense of the amount of time that it takes for each of these steps to happen," David said.

Paul Whelan has been held by Russia since 2018 and in 2020, he was sentenced to 16 years for spying. Griner was in court on Wednesday and has been in custody in Russia since February.

David Whelan speaks on US offer to bring Paul Whelan, Brittney Griner home

The U.S. considers both of them "wrongfully detained," and said they "must be allowed to come home."

“We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release,” Blinken said. “Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal and I will use that conversation to follow up personally and I hope move us toward a resolution.”

David also said that Paul is able to speak to their parents often, but hasn't talked to them in the last day or so and hasn't heard about the offer the U.S. made.

He also told us that it sounds like the conditions at the prison camp are getting worse.

"The food rations have been cut back so they’re getting less food, the food was never good to begin with, so you worry about malnutrition and things. He said the wall clocks and prisoner watches have been taken away," David said. "It's a very strange and not a positive experience."