Stop Using Imprisoned Americans as Political Puppets

Target: Anthony Blinken, United States Secretary of State

Goal: Don’t let Paul Whelan, former Marine, sit in a Russian prison for the rest of his life.

Recently, the US made a prisoner swap with Russia: an American basketball star and civil rights activist in exchange for a Russian arms dealer. Especially in light of tensions with Russia and their war against Ukraine, this prisoner trade is truly worth celebrating. However, the US had to make some concessions in the deal, namely allowing denial of the release of a detained former Marine in addition to the other American returned to US soil.

Allegations are circulating the Marine was assured the US would include him in the trade deal. When Russia denied his release, his own country seemingly did not advocate much further in his defense. Critics of the deal say President Biden may have accidentally garnered this result by publicly emphasizing freeing the activist, even months before the deal was finalized. The Marine, unfortunately, was left in Russia; some experts say this deal was his only chance for safe passage home.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken calls the exchange a “one or none” deal, a perspective that makes some critics wonder if the US did not push for a fail exchange because it simply wanted positive press in freeing a domestic public figure. Abandoning the Marine comes across as a premeditated move to use him to make Russia feel as if it had negotiating power in denying his freedom.

Sign the petition below to urge Secretary Blinken to not abandon foreign prisoners, especially after assuring their rescue, and not use these lives as political puppets.


Dear Secretary Blinken,

Congratulations on the recent prisoner exchange between Russia and the US. The White House made a promise to the people that they would liberate the basketball star and civil rights activist and followed through with the deal which also returned an international arms dealer back to his homeland in eastern Europe.

It is difficult to take this exchange as a complete victory, though. The former Marine initially included in the terms remains in a Russian prison despite being locked up since 2018 on charges yet to be substantiated in an alleged unfair trial. Political analysts say there was no sincere effort to ensure the detainee stayed in the exchange. He was seldom mentioned in White House press releases where the basketball player’s freedom was the highlight of the deal well before it took place. Experts even go as far as to say the Marine was secondary and included only in anticipation to give Russia leverage in denying his release.

The American and former Marine was given hope only to once again be abandoned by his country. The US seemingly used him as a chess piece to win a game against a country with little credibility on the world stage recently, not to mention sentiments that a Russian arms dealer is worth at least two lower profile Americans.

We urge you to not use American lives as political puppets and continue work to free the American as promised in the original prisoner exchange deal with Russia.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Stanislav Kozlovskiy

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