Chris Lange, FISM News
The brother of detained U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan said that the Biden administration has kept him in the dark concerning efforts to bring his brother home.
Whelan was arrested in Russia in 2018 on espionage charges and sentenced by a Moscow court to 16 years in prison in 2020. The United States has classified Whelan as “wrongfully detained.”
“The U.S. government has a singular offer that has been, by all accounts, waiting for Kremlin action for four months or more,” David Whelan told Newsweek Wednesday in an emailed statement. “It begs the question: At what point do you decide the other side is just not interested in your offer? Each day they — the Kremlin, the U.S. — wait is another day Paul spends as a hostage.”
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, had previously stated that Secretary of State Anthony Blinken put an offer “on the table” to Russia, the details of which are unknown.
Newsweek asked Whelen if he knew anything about the offer, including when it was made. He replied: “Your questions are my questions.”
In December’s prisoner swap that secured the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner in exchange for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, the Whelan family said that, while they were pleased about Griner’s release, they were chagrined that Paul was left behind.
David Whelan said he had been told by Blinken, “both before and after Ms. Griner’s release … that there was a significant offer for Paul’s release and that the Kremlin should take it. I don’t know what it consists of, and I don’t know if those statements refer to two separate concessions or the same concession. One might assume that, after Ms. Griner’s release, the U.S. had to offer a new concession, but I don’t know that.”
He added that, as far as he is aware, no new offers have been presented to Moscow since December.
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in Russia last month, also remains behind bars in Russia as he awaits trial on espionage charges. He, like Whelan, has been declared as “unlawfully detained” by the U.S.
CHINA TO SEND PEACE ENVOY TO UKRAINE
Chinese leader Xi Jinping announced on Wednesday that he will be sending a peace envoy to Ukraine as part of Beijing’s efforts to help facilitate a “political settlement” to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, as reported by the Associated Press.
The statement followed a phone call between the Chinese Communist Party leader and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier in the day. Zelenskyy referred to his hour-long discussion with Xi as a “long and meaningful conversation.” The Ukrainian leader had previously said that he welcomed an offer by China to mediate a resolution.
Xi stated that his country’s former ambassador to Russia would visit Ukraine, as well as “other countries,” to work on a political solution to end the war now grinding into its 15th month.
Beijing’s increasingly assertive role in world affairs is seen as part of Xi’s plan to challenge American dominance in international diplomacy and influence on the world stage.
In addition to introducing a 12-point peace plan for Ukraine and Russia earlier this year, China recently helped broker a deal to restore diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia and has been bolstering its relationships with European and Latin American powers.
Beijing continued its diplomatic outreach last week with an offer to hold talks between Israel and Palestine.
China’s significant geopolitical and economic interests in Sudan mean that Xi will likely seek a role in bringing an end to ongoing violence amid the country’s civil war between two militaries.
RUSSIA ALLEGEDLY CONDUCTING ‘ETHNIC CLEANSING’ CAMPAIGN IN UKRAINE
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar has accused Russia of an ethnic cleansing campaign in occupied territories by way of a major resettlement effort.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) confirmed in its latest war assessment that Russian authorities have been orchestrating “the depopulation and repopulation of areas of occupied Ukraine, particularly in occupied Kherson Oblast, over the course of 2022.”
The ISW, as well as Western media outlets, have reported on specific incidents throughout the conflict in which Russia has forcibly resettled Ukrainians in Russia, including children, under the guise of humanitarian evacuations, and repopulated their communities with Russian soldiers.
“Russia may hope to import Russians to fill depopulated areas of Ukraine in order to further integrate occupied areas into Russian [culture] socially, administratively, politically, and economically, thereby complicating conditions for the reintegration of these territories into Ukraine,” the report stated. “ISW has previously assessed that such depopulation and repopulation campaigns may amount to a deliberate ethnic cleansing effort and apparent violation of the Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.