Brittany Griner, the WNBA player who has been detained in Russian since her arrest on February 17th, just sent a letter through her representatives to President Joe Biden. She has been facing the Russian legal system on drug charges that allege she smuggled vape cartridges that contained hashish into the country.
Griner could face up to 10 years in Russia’s prison system if convicted.
The WNBA star pleaded her case with the president in hopes he will help her to be released. The Biden administration declared in May that Griner is being wrongfully detained by Russia. But Biden himself has made no direct statement regarding her situation.
Cherelle, Griner’s wife, has talked with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. The administration has also declared to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Griner’s representative, that it has been steady in its effort to deal with this matter since March.
There was supposed to be a phone call between Griner and her wife scheduled last month, but it did not take place. The State Department said there was a “logistical error.” Griner’s wife assumed it was a ploy on Russia’s part. Some wondered if the fact that Griner is married to a woman has played a part in Russia’s resistance.
But Cherelle told the Associated Press that she eventually learned that the phone Griner was supposed to use at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow was not staffed. She said she was distraught, hurt, done, and fed up.
“We deeply regret that Brittney Griner was unable to speak with her wife because of a logistical error. We have no higher priority than the safety and security of US citizens overseas,” a State Department spokesperson told the press.
The spokesperson also added, “We remain in regular contact with the families of those held hostage or wrongfully detained; we are grateful for their partnership and feedback; and we continue to work to ensure we are communicating and sharing information in a way useful to our families.”
Cherelle has continually asked for help from President Joe Biden and his administration. But this fiasco with the phone at the Embassy has put her over the edge and taken away any goodwill that she had for the White House staff.
She said that it was unacceptable and that she had zero trust in her government now. She questioned that if she can’t trust them to administrate a phone call, how can she trust the administration to negotiate on Griner’s behalf?
Some of the talks around Griner’s situation recently have included a prisoner swap. And the name that has surfaced more than any other has been Russian arms dealer/smuggler Viktor Bout.
He has been given the nickname the “Merchant of Death.”
Bout is now serving a 25-year prison sentence in an Illinois federal prison. He was convicted on a conspiracy to kill Americans charge for providing arms to Colombian rebels.
Sergei Ryabkov, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, has said that no talk about a prisoner swap can be talked about until Griner’s case has been resolved. But most believe that the deal is actually on the table now.
There will be great debate about whether a potential swap given Bout’s crimes is even politically possible.
Griner has represented America twice on the Olympic women’s basketball team. One wonders what would be happing right now if former President Donald Trump were in the oval office instead of Biden.
It probably would have only taken one phone call to get the WNBA star on a plane bound for home.