Paul Whelan's brother says 'don't give up' on him as Russian detainment passes 1,500 days

David Whelan says he has not spoken to his brother in four years.

ByABC NEWS
February 9, 2023, 3:59 PM

Paul Whelan’s detainment in Russia has passed 1,500 days, and his brother David Whelan is urging people not to give up on him.

President Joe Biden focused on the domestic agenda during his State of the Union address Tuesday and did not mention Paul Whelan, who was convicted to 16 years in a Russian prison in June 2020 on spying charges, which the former Marine has always denied.

David Whelan told ABC News Live’s Linsey Davis that he was not disappointed that there was not a mention of his brother as the U.S. is grappling with many issues involving the Kremlin.

However, David Whelan continued to call for his brother's release.

LINSEY DAVIS: Former Marine Paul Whelan, who has been held in a Russia prison for 1,500 days now. His brother David joins us now. David, thank you so much for coming on the show. Always appreciate you joining us. Were you disappointed that the president didn't include any mention of your brother or other detainees?

DAVID WHELAN: No. Paul's the only wrongful detainee American in Russia. And although it's an important case to us, I realize that it's a smaller issue among all of the other issues that the American government has with the Kremlin right now. So I would have been very surprised for Paul to come up.

PHOTO: In this June 15, 2020, file photo, Paul Whelan, a former US marine accused of espionage and arrested in Russia in December 2018, stands inside a defendants' cage as he waits to hear his verdict in Moscow.
In this June 15, 2020, file photo, Paul Whelan, a former US marine accused of espionage and arrested in Russia in December 2018, stands inside a defendants' cage as he waits to hear his verdict in Moscow.
Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

DAVIS: Of course, there was some hope that Paul would be released along with Brittney Griner back in December. What can you tell us about the current status of the negotiations for his release?

WHELAN: Well, the State Department has taken a 180. It has gone very quiet in its attempts to bring Paul home. Last autumn and summer, it was much more vocal talking about what it was trying to do. They've gone very quiet and so we're really waiting to see what they're up to, what success they might have. And we'll keep our fingers crossed.

DAVIS: When was the last time you had a chance to talk to your brother?

WHELAN: My parents spoke to him yesterday and he seems as well as you can be. The hot water has been turned off in the prisons for the last few weeks, so no one's been able to shower or use hot water. They've had to boil their own water for drinking and things like that. So it's a rough life. It's surviving, it's not living. But he seems to be doing as well as he can.

DAVIS: As we noted, it's now been 1,500 days, more than four years. How's the family holding up? How are you? How are your parents?

WHELAN: Well, I mean, you get tired, obviously. It's been a long time. But we can't give up because Paul can't give up. We need to get him home. And so we know that we're in this for the long haul and hopefully it won't be too long. But I just confirmed recently with his lawyer in Russia that his release date would be December 28, 2034. So that's the date we have to work towards until the U.S. government is able to convince the Kremlin to release him.

DAVIS: You were saying that you guys can't give up because your brother can't, but do you ever lose hope or is that always there?

WHELAN: No. There have been times where I probably thought I lost hope. But really, hope is about expecting Paul to come home at some point and to see our parents again, which is really the goal. And so long as I have that to fuel me, that keeps me going.

DAVIS: You said that your parents got a chance to speak to him yesterday. When was the last time you talked to him?

WHELAN: Oh, I haven't spoken to him since October of 2018 – so over four years.

DAVIS: Do you think about? Do you allow yourself to think about that day that you see him or talk to him again and what you might say, what it might be like?

WHELAN: I don't really. It's hard because we've had a number of disappointments. Obviously, we were very thrilled that Trevor Reed came home last year, last April, and Brittney Griner came home in December. But each time that Paul doesn't come home, it's a disappointment. And so I try not to think too far ahead. Obviously, I'll be glad to see him when that day comes.

DAVIS: David Whelan, we thank you so much. Our thoughts continue to be with you and your family.

WHELAN: Thank you.