US President Joe Biden has spoken with Cherelle Griner to tell her he is working to secure her wife Brittney Griner’s release “as soon as possible”.
The conversation was also joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and came after a personal appeal to the president in the form of a handwritten letter from the WNBA star.
Brittney Griner said in her letter that she has fears of spending forever in Russian detention and asked the president to not “forget about me and the other American Detainees”.
The direct plea from Griner has been shared in excerpts by her representatives.
“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,” she wrote.
“On the 4th of July, our family normally honours the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War veteran.
“It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”
The White House said Biden has now called Cherelle Griner to reassure her that he’s “working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other U.S. nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world”.
He also offered the family his support and committed to make sure they receive “all possible assistance” during this time.
Brittney Griner’s trial started last week in Russia after being detained for four months.
The athlete was arrested on February 17 in Moscow for allegedly having multiple cannabis oil vape cartridges in her airport luggage while returning to play for her Russian team.
The president’s call came after the Griner family became more vocal about the case.
Earlier in the week, Cherelle Griner said it was “disheartening” that she had not yet heard from Biden during her wife’s detention in an interview with CBS Mornings.
After the call, Cherelle Griner said in a statement she appreciated having the conversation with Biden and Harris, saying, “I am grateful to the both of them for the time they spent with me and for the commitment they expressed to getting BG home”.