Brittney Griner, an American basketball player who was imprisoned in Russia and released Thursday in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, shed light on the case of another American prisoner, Paul Whelan. U.S. officials claim they are still working to secure the release of the former Marine who was arrested in Moscow in 2018, but that he was not included in Thursday's prisoner swap negotiations because the Russians are handling his case differently.

Paul Whelan, 52, is a former Marine turned corporate security executive serving a 16-year sentence in a Russian prison for espionage.

Whelan, a citizen of four nations — the United States, Canada, Britain, and Ireland — was a former sheriff's deputy and active-duty reservist who served multiple deployments in Iraq. According to military and court records, he was expelled from the Marines for bad conduct in 2008 after being convicted of theft-related offences.

Whelan subsequently spent more than a decade as an expert in corporate security. For the time of his arrest, he was the director of corporate security at BorgWarner, a Michigan-based supplier of automotive parts.

Whelan was sentenced to 16 years of hard labour in a Russian prison for espionage in June 2020, in a trial that he claims was politically motivated and increased tensions between the United States and Russia.

His lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, stated that his client acquired a flash drive holding "state secrets" while attending a wedding in Russia in 2018. During a spy mission, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Whelan was caught "red-handed."

Whelan, who was arrested in a Moscow hotel on December 28, 2018, claimed he believed the flash drive he received from a friend contained holiday photos. Whelan, his family, and the United States government have repeatedly asserted that he was falsely accused and framed.

On the day the verdict was announced, Whelan stated that he believed it to be inevitable and shouted from a glassed-in area of the courtroom that Russia "feels powerless in the world, so they're taking political hostages."

Who is Paul Whelan, the former U.S. Marine held in Russia?

Who is Paul Whelan, the former U.S. Marine held in Russia?