Biden calls Brittney Griner’s wife after she attacked him for failing to help WNBA star detained in Russia

President Biden and vice-president Kamala Harris spoke on Wednesday with the wife of Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who has been detained in Russia since February.

Ms Griner’s family, including wife Cherelle Griner, have been critical of the White House, saying the president hasn’t done enough to free the Phoenix Mercury player from an unjust detention on drug charges.

“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 U.S. nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world,” the White House said in a statement this week. “He also read her a draft of the letter the President is sending to Brittney Griner today.”

The statement added that other officials like Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan have been in previous contact with Cherelle Griner about the situation.

On Tuesday, Ms Griner said she found it “very disheartening” that she hadn’t heard back from the White House about her imprisoned wife, after Brittney Griner penned a letter to the president from Russian prison where she said she was ”terrified I might be here forever.”

Ms Grinerr told CBS she had been urged by government officials to remain quiet so as not to raise her wife’s value as a bargaining chip to Russian officials.

“I will not be quiet anymore,” Ms Griner told CBS. “I will find that balance of harm versus help and pushing our government to do everything that’s possible because being quiet means they are not moving, they are not doing anything.”

The two-time Olympian basketball player was detained by Russian customs officials at Sheremetyevo International Airport outside of Moscow in February after security services officers reportedly found vaporiser pods containing hash oil in her luggage.

Ms Griner was escorted in handcuffs into a courtroom in Khimki on 1 July for the first day of her trial.

The Russian government presented evidence that the WNBA star “bought two cartridges for personal use, which contained 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil,” according to a courtroom report from state news agency Tass.

Ms Griner could face 10 years in prison if convicted on charges of large-scale transportation of drugs. Fewer than 1 per cent of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike in the US, acquittals can be overturned.

The White House has maintained that it is committed to rescuing Ms Griner and other detained Americans.

“This is an issue that is a priority for this President,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday, noting that the US has classified Ms Griner as being “wrongfully detained” by the Russian government.

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