BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — As the country celebrates the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner from Russian custody, the prisoner exchange deal that brought her home left out retired U.S. Marine Paul Whelan.
Whelan has been held in Russia custody on espionage charges since 2018.
His sister, Elizabeth, lives on Martha's Vineyard and says the news of Griner's release is bittersweet.
"Anytime we can get a wrongfully detained American back is a win," Elizabeth told WBZ's Tim Dunn. "I would have really liked it if Paul had been included in this negotiation. but the Russians weren't having it."
President Biden spoke about the prisoner exchange deal on Thursday, saying, "This was not a choice of which American to bring home... Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul's case differently than Brittney's."
Elizabeth said she doesn't place any blame on the White House for Paul being left out of the deal.
She says her family heard from Paul on Thursday morning, which is something that gives the family hope.
"The prison allowed Paul to call our parents this morning, which was very unusual, that's not a time of day he's normally allowed anywhere near a phone. And he was able to talk to a senior official from the White House," Elizabeth said.
WBZ's Tim Dunn (@ConsiderMeDunn) reports