President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke by phone Wednesday with Cherelle Griner, the wife of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who is detained in a Russian prison, according to the White House.
Biden has also written a letter in response to Brittney Griner’s handwritten letter, which he shared with her wife during the call.
“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. He also read her a draft of the letter the President is sending to Brittney Griner today,” the White House said.
Griner wrote in a letter delivered to Biden on Monday that she is afraid that she could be detained in Russia indefinitely.
“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,” an excerpt of the letter obtained by CNN earlier this week said.
Griner wrote, “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 voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore. 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,” she wrote.
The White House said Biden “offered his support to Cherelle and Brittney’s family, and he committed to ensuring they are provided with all possible assistance while his administration pursues every avenue to bring Brittney home.”
Biden also directed his team to remain in “regular contact” with Cherelle and Brittney Griner’s family.
The 31-year-old Griner, who has played in Russia during the WNBA’s offseason, was arrested February 17 at a Moscow airport, a week before Russia invaded Ukraine. Russian authorities claimed she had cannabis oil in her luggage and accused her of smuggling significant amounts of a narcotic substance, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. She went on trial in a court near Moscow on Friday on drug smuggling charges.
Griner’s supporters and US officials say she has been wrongfully detained and have called for her release as fears mount that she is being used as a political pawn amid rising tensions between Russia and the US.