The White House expressed concern on Wednesday about Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine detained in Russia, after his family said they went several days without hearing from him.
"Our embassy in Moscow has been working to understand exactly Paul's condition and why his family hasn't heard from him," press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
"It is a concern. We're all worried, very much worried about Paul and about Brittney Griner as well. As we have said repeatedly, they shouldn't be detained in the first place," she added, referring to the WNBA basketball player who has been detained since February.
Earlier Wednesday, national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the administration is working to obtain updates on Whelan's condition but has been unsuccessful.
"That deeply concerns us, and we certainly share the anxiety and the concern of the Whelan family," he said.
Whelan's family said they've had no communication with him since Nov. 23, claiming it was unusual for him not to reach out on Thanksgiving or his father's birthday.
Whelan has been held in Russia since 2018 on spying charges, to which he maintains his innocence. In 2020, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
The Biden administration says both Griner and Whelan are being wrongfully detained.
The Biden administration considered a prisoner swap in which both would be released in exchange for Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout. The potential trade was not publicly confirmed that it was offered or explicit on whether it involved Bout.
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