'Why have I been left behind?' Paul Whelan's family pushes for his release from Russian labor camp

Posted at 8:07 AM, Apr 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-28 08:07:54-04

(WXYZ) — The family of Paul Whelan, a Novi man stuck in a Russian labor camp, is pushing for his return to the states.

This comes one day after another former marine, Trevor Reed, was freed in a prisoner exchange.

Reed was released after nearly three years in exchange for a Russian pilot locked up in the states on a 20-year drug charge.

Whelan, who was in a camp just down the road from Reed, is serving a 16-year sentence in a labor colony in Mordovia.

Reed’s release offers both hope and a slight sting to the Whelan family as Paul remains behind bars in a country that’s not his own on charges his family maintains are bogus.

“His first words were, why have I been left behind,” Paul's brother David Whelan said.

Reed's prisoner exchange with Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko comes as a surprise to many, especially as Russia's invasion of Ukraine has left diplomatic ties with the U.S. at a dismal low.

But after hearing the news of Reed's release, Reed's mother Paula became optimistic that both Paul and Trevor would be freed with the two being held not far from each other.

“At first we thought there were going to be a deal to bring them both home," Paula Reed said. "And I think it was going to be very hard for Trevor. He doesn’t want to leave another marine there.”

Whelan has been locked up in Russia since 2018. He was convicted of spying, but Whelan said he was only in Russia to attend a friend’s wedding.

“While we’re disappointed, it’s not a first in first out sort of experience. I think anybody that gets out is a win,” Paul's brother David said.

While Reed’s release has had no immediate effect on other Americans locked up in Russia, the Biden administration says it is still committed to bringing Paul home.

But for Whelan’s family, especially his aging parents, the clock is ticking.