Update: President Biden on Wednesday called Brittney Griner's wife and assured her he's working to free the WNBA star, who remains jailed in Russia and recently wrote to Biden asking for help. VP Kamala Harris also spoke to Cherelle Griner, who has criticized the US handling of her wife's case. Griner expressed gratitude for the call but said she plans to keep up public pressure on the Biden administration, the AP reports. "The President called Cherelle to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other US nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world,” the White House said in a statement. “He also read her a draft of the letter the President is sending to Brittney Griner today.” Our original story from Tuesday follows:
The friends and family of Brittney Griner have been urging the White House to do more to free the WNBA star from a Russian prison. Now Griner herself has joined the chorus. The 31-year-old penned a handwritten letter to President Biden that was delivered to the White House on Monday, reports CNN. Snippets getting wide traction:
- "As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever," wrote Griner in one of the excerpts released by her agent.
- Elsewhere, she writes: "I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American Detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home. ... I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home."
The White House acknowledged receiving the letter, but it was not immediately clear if Biden himself had received it, per the New York Times. A White House statement said the US government "continues to work aggressively—using every available means—to bring her home." Griner has been detained since February, when she was arrested at a Moscow airport for allegedly carrying hashish oil. Her trial began last week, and Griner faces 10 years in a penal colony if convicted, which seems likely. As for the other US detainees she mentioned, the Wall Street Journal notes that one is Paul Whelan, a former Marine who has been held in Russia since 2018 and was convicted of espionage. (Read more Brittney Griner stories.)