Griner supporters beg Biden administration to secure his release
Brittney Griner’s family and supporters are increasingly pleading with President Biden and the US government to secure her release amid lingering fears she could be used by Russia in geopolitical contests over its war in Ukraine.
His agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, recently coordinated a letter to Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris signed by groups including the National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Urban League and the National Action Network. The letter called on the government to reach an agreement for his release.
US State Department officials met in June with Ms Griner’s WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, to discuss the status of her months-long detention in Russia and efforts to secure her release.
Ms Griner’s supporters have expressed support for her release. Many WNBA players have worn t-shirts and hoodies in support of her, and her initials are displayed on the courts for all 12 WNBA teams.
Initially, Ms Griner’s supporters spoke little publicly about the detention, fearing that her situation was part of the larger global conflict involving Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the US’ strained relationship with Russia. .
That strategy changed after the State Department said Ms Griner had been ‘wrongfully detained’ days after Russia traded Trevor R. Reed, a former US Marine sentenced to nine years in prison for assault. , during a prisoner exchange.
Mr. Reed’s deteriorating health in Russia most likely played a role in Moscow’s push to release him, said Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon, a Ph.D. student in the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania, whose areas of study include African-American experiences in the Soviet Union, Ukraine, and Russia.
Ms St. Julian-Varnon, who consulted the WNBA Players Union over Griner’s detention, said: ‘The problem is that Brittney, politically, is worth so much more in terms of prisoner trading than Trevor Reed in because of his profile. . So the demand is going to be much bigger, and I think the demand they telegraphed in the Russian news is for Viktor Bout.
Mr. Bout, an international arms trafficker, was found guilty by a US court and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Russia also has an interest in releasing Roman Seleznev, a hacker who was convicted in the United States of leading a massive credit card and identity theft operation and sentenced to 27 years in prison. Besides Ms Griner, Russia has also detained Paul Whelan, a former US Marine sentenced to 16 years for espionage.
“It’s the classic hostage-taking dilemma,” said Thomas Firestone, a former Justice Department official who worked in Moscow as a lawyer. “If you negotiate the release, you may be encouraging future hostage takings. If you don’t, the person may never be released.
Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, told reporters on Tuesday that he and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken had spoken to Ms. Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, in recent days.
“The United States government is actively working to resolve this matter and bring Brittney home,” Sullivan said. He added: “He has the full attention of the President and all of his senior diplomatic and national security team. And we are actively working to find a solution to this matter and will continue to do so without rest until Brittney returns home safely.