National Security Council: We wanted Whelan released, too

Rush Hour

(NewsNation) — American basketball player Brittney Griner is in good health as she heads back to the U.S. after being detained in a Russian prison, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told NewsNation.

“Her first stop when she gets back to United States is to a health care facility so that we can make sure for her sake and for her family’s sake that she’s doing OK from a health and well-being perspective,” Kirby said.

Griner was released Thursday as part of a prisoner swap for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. U.S. officials also had hoped to secure the release of former Marine Paul Whelan, who has spent nearly four years detained in Russia.

“We would have loved nothing more than to get Mr. Whelan home today as well,” Kirby said. “And we know they’re disappointed. He’s disappointed. We’re disappointed that we weren’t able to make that work. We offered many different proposals and options and alternatives to the Russians. Regrettably, this was the deal we could get. And now is the moment we could get it.”

The allegations in Whelan’s case were a factor in the agreement between the U.S. and Russia, Kirby said.

Whelan was detained on suspicion of being a spy. His family says he was simply attending an overseas wedding.

“They were treating Mr. Whelan separately,” Kirby said. “They put him in a different category because of the sham espionage charges that were levied against him, which are different than the drug charges that were levied against Brittney,” Kirby said.

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