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Sent hostage to Whelan: ‘Paul, we’re coming for you’

Russia is treating Whelan’s case differently because he was accused of spying in Russia, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Sunday on “Fox News Sunday.”

Kirby called the accusations a “sham”, but said there was “simply no way” to bring him home.

The administration said Griner and Whelan were wrongfully detained.

Carstens shared additional details about Griner’s return flight from Russia: The professional basketball player spent about two-thirds of the 18-hour flight talking, he said. Griner spoke in “detail” about her ordeal, Carstens said, though he declined to elaborate on what she told him.

“I felt like he was a smart, passionate, compassionate, humble, interesting, patriotic, but most importantly genuine person,” Carstens said. “I hate that I had to meet her this way. But I really felt blessed to have had the chance to know her.

Carstens also spoke to Whelan on Friday, he said. The envoy said the administration should “keep our cards close to our chests” regarding options for bringing Whelan home, but confirmed “there are always cards.”

Responding to criticism of Bout’s release, Kirby noted that Bout was already scheduled to be released from prison in 2029.

Bout, who was arrested in 2008, has been dubbed the “merchant of death” for his role in supplying warring factions with weapons, including in Liberia’s first and second civil wars, which killed 250,000 people.

“If Mr. Bout decides to return to his previous job, we will do what we need to do to hold him accountable and protect our interests,” Kirby said on ABC’s “This Week.”

If members of Congress decide to investigate the Biden administration’s handling of the swap, the administration will cooperate and “be as open as possible,” Kirby said.

Preet Bharara, who sued Bout as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, repeatedly said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that Bout was dangerous — but also that he trusted the Biden administration and couldn’t say how dangerous The fight would be today.

“I think people of good faith can, in good faith, ask questions and be concerned about it, even when we’re very, very happy that Brittney Griner is back,” Bout told host Chuck Todd. 

Griner, WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was jailed in Russia – most recently in a penal colony – after being arrested at a Moscow airport in February. In court, she admitted to having vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage when she arrived in the country, but she maintains that she had no criminal intent and that she had accidentally packed the cartridges.

Whelan, a corporate security official, was arrested in December 2018 for espionage and sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison in June 2020.

Fiona Hill, the National Security Council’s former senior director for European and Russian affairs, said Americans detained overseas are often victims of political machinations.

“They were doing something that seemed routine, seemed completely ordinary, but got stuck in games that were basically political,” she said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “And we have to be aware of the fact that when governments do this, they do it for commercial gain, but they also do it to disturb our politics, and we fall for it every time, the more we fight with each other. others, the more we play into their hands.

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