Talks on freeing former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan from prison in Russia are continuing, the Russian Interfax news agency cited his lawyer as saying on Thursday, after U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner was released by Moscow in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
“Whelan is currently in the penal colony,” Vladimir Zherebenkov was quoted as saying. “Discussions about his exchange are continuing at the level of the intelligence services, so everything is quite closed – but they are going on.”
After what U.S. President Joe Biden said were “painstaking and intense” negotiations, Russia and the United States exchanged Griner for Bout on Thursday in a long-anticipated swap.
Biden said the U.S. administration “will never give up” trying to secure Whelan’s release.
Whelan was convicted in 2020 of spying, after a trial held entirely behind closed doors that U.S. diplomats said was unfair and opaque, and sentenced to 16 years in a maximum security penal colony. He denies all the charges.