The Biden administration believes the Russian government will continue to deal with prisoner issues, including the release of American Paul Whelan, following the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner because “they have things they want in this world,” he said. a senior government official to CNN.
Moscow knows that the two sides will eventually “reach a mutually acceptable settlement if they keep talking to us,” the official continued.
“We have shown openness to talk about what is actually available to us and only got in response to a request for something that was not available to us,” the official said, reiterating that the Russians refused what was offered to secure the release of to secure Whelan. .
On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said further prisoner exchanges with the United States are possible. Putin said Griner’s exchange for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout “is the result of negotiations and the search for compromises”.
“In this case, compromises were found. We do not refuse to continue this work in the future,” he said.
CNN previously reported that convicted Russian killer Vadim Krasikov, who is in German custody, was one of Moscow’s requests, and the official did not rule out that his release was a continued request.
Demands related to the war in Ukraine were not raised during negotiations to secure Griner’s release and secure Whelan’s, the official said, adding that the US would not make concessions on that front.
“We’ve clearly thought about why that might be the case” that the Russians didn’t let it float, the official said, “and I think we attribute it to the fact that we’ve been so crystal clear, so consistent, that it is not for us to negotiate on how to resolve that horrific situation.”
The official added: “If it is raised, of course it is not for negotiation. The future of another country is not negotiable and the defense of democracy against autocracy is not negotiable.”
While US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that “every possible” offer has been made to the Russians to secure Whelan’s release, the Biden administration has ideas about “new forms of offers” they could make with the Russians. will try in an effort to secure Whelan’s release, the senior official said.
Whelan told CNN Thursday that “the president and his team are going to have to look at what they have that’s valuable that these people want, and hopefully give it to them, or I’m going to be here for a long time.”
However, his brother has cast doubt on the possibility of identifying anything the Russians want.
“It is clear that the US government is not making any concessions that the Russian government will make for Paul Whelan. And so Paul will remain a prisoner until that changes,” David Whelan said in a statement Thursday.
Paul Whelan’s sister, Elizabeth Whelan, said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” on Friday that the public discussion surrounding a possible swap was “very hard for my family to hear,” adding that she believes her brother is “being discussed as if his only value was what we would have to give up for him.
When asked about her family’s discussions with the US government over her brother’s imprisonment, Elizabeth Whelan said: “I think we’ve made it pretty clear — that as far as I’m concerned — my brother is worth more, worth more than any Russian criminal anyway.”
Russia considers Paul Whelan a spy, the highest government officially explained, which means they treat him in a different category. The official did not count on the US offering a Russian spy in US custody as a possible offer to Russia.
“There is a willingness to pay even a very high price on the part of this president,” the official said. “We have made it clear to the Russians that we are at least open to talk about what is available to us, what we can actually deliver. It would be someone in our custody.