Biden Meets Brittney Griner’s Wife Amid Russian Detention: NPR
President Joe Biden will meet with the wife of WNBA star Brittney Griner on Friday as the United States continues negotiations to bring Griner back from a Russian prison, where she has spent the past seven months.
Biden will meet with Cherelle Griner and Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Paul Whelan, a former Marine convicted of spying in Russia whose release Biden has also sought.
The president spoke with Cherelle Griner in July, shortly after Brittney Griner wrote a letter to the president, in which she said she was “terrified that I will be here forever.”
The Biden administration considers the couple to be wrongfully detained and, in exchange for their commutations, offered to release Viktor Bout, a notorious Russian arms dealer sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2011.
“As we have said before, we believe Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney and Paul in intolerable circumstances,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “And as you know, we have been directly engaged with the Russian government through the appropriate channels.”
Griner, 31, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and plays for the Phoenix Mercury. Since 2014, she also played for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason. She was arrested in February for possession of marijuana vape cartridges as she entered the country to prepare for the playoffs. In August, she was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to nine years.
Whelan, 52, also traveled openly in Russia for years, but was arrested in 2018 and convicted of espionage in a secret trial.
Jean-Pierre said she could not share details of the Biden administration’s negotiations with Russia for security reasons, but said Russia had not responded to their proposal.
“Although I would like to say that the purpose of this meeting is to inform the families that the Russians have accepted our offer and that we are bringing their loved ones home, that is not what we see in these negotiations at this time. time,” she said.
“The Russians should accept our offer,” she added. “They should accept our offer today. We will continue to work diligently until the day we can share this good news.”