President Joe Biden will meet Friday with family members of WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan as the White House continues to push for their release via negotiations for a prisoner swap, said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
The meetings will involve with Griner’s wife, Cherelle and Whelan’s sister, Elizabeth and take place separately. This will be the first face-to-face meeting with Biden and the family members, though Biden spoke to Cherelle Griner by phone in July.
In the meeting scheduled for Friday, Biden will "discuss his continuing commitment to bringing their family members home safely," said Jean-Pierre. "As we have said before, we believe that Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittany and Paul under intolerable circumstances."
Negotiations With Russia Ongoing
The White House has been in talks with Russian officials over the release of Griner and Whelan. Biden said last month that he was hopeful a deal could be made to release Griner, though since then, there have been few signs of progress from either side.
"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 according to The Associated Press.
"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."
On a hopeful note, however, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was in Moscow this week, raising expectations about talks to bring Griner and Whelan home in exchange for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout.
And This Guy Too?
And now has been rumored that Russian criminal mastermind Alexander Vinnik, accused of laundering more than $4 billion through the digital currency bitcoin (BTC/USD), may be potentially included in the prisoner swap. Vinnik was extradited last month to the U.S. to face money laundering charges.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested at an airport in Moscow on Feb. 17 for possessing less than a gram of cannabis oil in her baggage. Russia invaded Ukraine seven days later.
Like other female athletes who play abroad during the off-season for extra income, Griner had been playing on a Russian team for the past seven years.
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