… 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.Brittney Griner, an American professional women’s basketball player who is currently detained in Russia, in a letter to President Joe Biden. Her trial in Russian court began last week.
- Background: Brittney Griner is one of the top women's basketball players in the U.S. She was arrested in February in a Russian airport; authorities reported finding vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis in her bag.
- Griner wrote to President Biden, "I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don't forget about me and the other detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home." Only excerpts from the hand-written letter have been made available by Griner's representatives.
- How has the White House responded? “President Biden has been clear about the need to see all U.S. nationals who are held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad released, including Brittney Griner. The U.S. government continues to work aggressively – using every available means – to bring her home," said National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson.
- Why It Matters: Brittney Griner is not the only American currently being detained in Russia. Paul Whelan, a corporate security executive, was arrested in December 2018 while visiting for a friend's wedding and was taken into custody for espionage charges (sharing private info to a foreign nation). He has denied all charges but faces 16 years in prison. Both individuals have asked the White House to help bring them home, though little is known about how or when they could return to the U.S.
- Something to consider: The U.S. and Russia carried out a prisoner exchange in late April. Trevor Reed, an American who was imprisoned for nearly 3 years, was swapped for a convicted Russian drug trafficker who was arrested in 2010. U.S. officials noted that the exchange took months of planning.
Griner sends letter to President Biden pleading for his help (Associated Press)
by Jenna Lee,