President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet Friday with family members of WNBA star Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, another American imprisoned in Russia.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday confirmed the meetings will take place with Cherelle Griner, Brittney’s wife, and with Elizabeth Whelan, Paul’s sister.
Jean-Pierre said Biden intends to repeat his administration’s vow to bring home Griner and Whelan.
“As we have said before, we believe that Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittany and Paul under intolerable circumstances,” she said.
The United States has offered a prisoner swap to Russia but no deal has been made.
“I would love to say that the purpose of this meeting is to inform the families that the Russians have accepted our offer and we are bringing their loved ones home. That is not what we’re seeing in these negotiations at this time,” Jean-Pierre said. “Look, as we’ve said, the Russians should accept our offer. They should accept our offer today. We will keep working diligently until the day we get to share that good news.”
The news of the meeting comes after a visit by Bill Richardson, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to Moscow. He reportedly met earlier this week with Russian officials.
Richardson has vast experience in negotiating the release of hostages and detainees.
Griner, the Phoenix Mercury center, was arrested Feb. 17 with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.
Griner, 31, was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony on Aug. 4 on drug smuggling and possession charges.
Whelan, a corporate security executive, was convicted of espionage charges and is serving a 16-year sentence. Whelan, 52, was arrested just after Christmas 2018.
–Field Level Media