“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 wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world,” White told House.
In a letter delivered to Biden on Monday, Brittney Griner, 31, expressed concern that she did not know how long she will be detained and urged the president to work for her release and that of other Americans detained abroad.
“As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, my family, my friends, my Olympic jersey or any achievement, I am terrified of be here forever,” she wrote.
According to the White House, during Wednesday’s call, Biden “offered his support for the family of Cherelle and Brittney, and he pledged to ensure that they receive all possible assistance while his administration pursuing all avenues to bring Brittney home.”
“Today’s call follows recent calls that the National Security Adviser [Jake] Sullivan and Secretary of State [Antony] Blinken has had with Cherelle for the past few weeks and this past weekend,” the White House said, adding that Biden had ordered his national security team to stay in regular contact with Brittney Griner’s family.
Prominent black women urge Biden to ‘get a deal’ for Brittney Griner
Cherelle Griner released a statement on Instagram later Wednesday about her call with Biden and Harris.
“I am grateful to both of them for the time they spent with me and for the commitment they expressed in bringing BG home,” she wrote. “While I remain concerned and candid until she returns home, I am hopeful to know that the President has read my wife’s letter and taken the time to respond. I know that BG can take comfort in knowing that she has not been forgotten.
Nearly 1,200 prominent black women have signed a letter to Biden and Harris urging the administration to secure Brittney Griner’s release from a Russian prison, an escalation of a pressure campaign by the WNBA star’s supporters who comes as his trial unfolds in a court outside Moscow.
The letter, which was delivered to the White House on Tuesday afternoon, was signed by a group of black women leaders in sports, entertainment, labor, business, politics and faith. He claimed that Griner was “enduring inhumane conditions” while imprisoned and said, “It is imperative, President Biden, that you address this current human rights crisis and reach a deal to bring Brittney home. it quickly and safely.”
Griner, 31, was arrested in February at Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow when customs officials allegedly discovered vape cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage. At the time, she was returning home to join UMMC Yekaterinburg, the Russian team she plays for during the WNBA offseason. In early May, the State Department declared Griner’s case a “wrongful detention,” an official classification that elevated him to the rank of U.S. presidential special envoy for hostage affairs.
His trial began Friday and is expected to continue Thursday; Griner has not yet pleaded guilty. She is expected to be found guilty – an estimated 99% of Russian criminal trials end in guilty verdicts – and could face up to 10 years in prison.
Jake Lourim contributed to this report.