This is one of the issues that still poisons ties between Moscow and Washington. The US president assured the families of two Americans detained in Russia, basketball star Brittney Griner and former serviceman Paul Whelan, on Friday that he “continues to explore all possible avenues” to repatriate them, the White House said. in a press release. Joe Biden met separately with Elizabeth Whelan, sister of Paul Whelan, and Cherelle Griner, wife of Brittney Griner.
“The president is grateful to have had the opportunity to learn more about Brittney and Paul,” his spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said in the statement, which gives no indication of the ongoing negotiations with Russia. . Earlier in the day, John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council attached to the White House, had assured that “the discussions continued”.
“The president is not going to let go”
“The president is not going to let go. He is confident that this issue will remain at the forefront of his mind and that of his team,” added John Kirby. Cherelle Griner for her part thanked Joe Biden for the “efforts of his administration to obtain his release”. “I felt every minute of those grueling seven months without her,” she said in a statement.
Russia had recently said it was ready to discuss a prisoner exchange for the sportswoman. John Kirby assured that Washington had made a “serious” offer to Moscow, but that the Russians were “not responding”. “These two people should already be at home. Full stop,” he added.
The basketball player was sentenced to nine years in prison by a Russian court for cannabis trafficking. His case took on a geopolitical dimension in the context of the crisis between Moscow and Washington linked to the Russian offensive in Ukraine. This diplomatic confrontation has also shone the spotlight again on Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year prison sentence in Russia for “espionage”.