Will Biden Swap Whelan for Russian Prisoners?

  • On June 16th, the Moscow City Court sentenced Mr. Whelen to 16 years in prison in a high-security penal colony for espionage.
  • The lawyers for Konstantin Yaroshenko and Viktor Bout believe they will be swapped.
  • There are close to 350 Russian citizens that are convicted in the US and serving prison terms.

The lawyer for American Paul Whelan, who was convicted in Russia for espionage, believes that the newly-elected US President, Job Biden, will advocate on behalf of Mr. Whelan. In reality, Mr. Whelan has multiple citizenships and very questionable professional interests.

Paul Nicholas Whelan is a Canadian-born American resident corporate security director. He was arrested in Russia on December 28, 2018, and accused of spying. On June 15, 2020, he received a 16-year prison sentence with the possibility of time in a labor camp.

According to his disclosure, Mr. Whelen is a citizen of the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.

On June 16th, the Moscow City Court sentenced Mr. Whelen to 16 years in prison in a high-security penal colony for espionage. It should be noted that the Russian state prosecutor was asking for 18 years.

Mr. Whelan has never admitted his guilt. Also, it is expected that he will be swapped for Russian citizens who are currently serving prison sentences in the US.

Nevertheless, the question remains, why should the US take Whelan back? He holds three other citizenships. Therefore, to which country does he have loyalty?

Moreover, the current US President, Donald Trump, stated that negotiations regarding Mr. Whelan’s release were conducted. However, the US President did not want to sign a pardon. There is no information on if the UK or Canada had any negotiations with Russia.

In the case of the newly-elected US President, Mr. Biden, it is plausible that he would have an interest in aiding Mr. Whelan to be released from the Russian prison. Mr. Whelan’s laywer, Vladimir Zherebnikov, stated:

“Despite the harsh rhetoric that Biden used during the election campaign, one way or another it will be necessary to build constructive relations with Russia, in this vein, many experts and former politicians are inclined to believe that the exchange of prisoners would be one of the first good steps towards restoring relations.”

Interestingly, the lawyers for Konstantin Yaroshenko and Viktor Bout are of the same opinion. Both Yaroshenko and Bout are in US prisons and served almost half of their terms. Yaroshenko was given a 20-year sentence and Bout was given 25 years. Would the US want to swap Yaroshenko and Bout for Whelan?

Additionally, there are more Russian nationals that are currently in the US prison system. It is possible that there would be more names that will be considered for a swap this year or next. According to the Russian Embassy, there are close to 350 Russian citizens that are convicted and serving their prison terms.

Viktor Bout is a Russian arms dealer. On 2 November 2011, Bout was convicted by a jury in a Manhattan federal court of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and officials, delivery of anti-aircraft missiles, and providing aid to a terrorist organization, and was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment.

Additionally, there is even one Russian national who has been in the Guantanamo Bay prison since 2002. He has not been formally charged, but he is accused of the organization of terrorist camps in Afghanistan. To note, he is one of the Russian Muslim minority areas of Russia.

At the same time, Mr. Biden has to find a way to build a civil relationship with Putin’s Russia. Mr. Biden was very tough on Russia during his election campaign.

Nevertheless, the show must go on. President Putin is not going anywhere, as much as the Russian opposition’s self-proclaimed leader, Alexei Navalny, hopes. Mr. Navalny’s rumor peddling about President Putin being ill, and that he will retire, will not go anywhere either.

It is possible such a swap could take place by 2022. Mr. Biden will not address the swap right after his inauguration in January 2021. The negotiations will take place closer to the end of 2021.

At the same time, Mr. Whelan has a better chance of being released under Biden than Trump. Whelan does not appear to hold much value to the US and his loyalties can be outside of the US interests.

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=4]

Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

Leave a Reply