Biden meets Griner, Whelan families at White House | Politics News

Families are pushing the US to secure the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan, to be held in Russia.

US President Joe Biden met the family of the basketball star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan, as Washington works to secure the release of two American citizens from detention in Russia.

Biden sat down in the Oval Office Friday with Cherelle Griner, Griner’s wife, and Elizabeth Whelan, sister of the former sailor.

The White House said the meetings began shortly before 5 p.m. (21:00 GMT).

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said earlier this week that Biden hopes the face-to-face talks will show families “they’re always at the center” of the US administration.

“Although I would say that the purpose of this meeting is to inform families that the Russians have accepted our offer and that we will bring their loved ones home, that is not the case. must be what we are seeing in negotiations at the moment, Jean-Pierre told reporters.

Griner, a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and two-time Olympic gold medalist, is sentenced to nine years went to jail last month for drug offenses.

She was arrested in February, days before Russia launched an all-out assault Invasion of Ukraineand her case was moved through the Russian court system amid war-torn relations between Moscow and Washington.

Whelan, a former Marine, was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020 for espionage.

The US State Department has called the detention of both US citizens unreasonable.

Earlier on Friday, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council said negotiations with Moscow to make sure the release of the two Americans was taking place.

“The President feels it is important to continue the dialogue with family members… We have kept in touch with them all this time; John Kirby told reporters.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in July that Washington had made an “important proposal” to Moscow to free Griner and Whelan.

Around that time, several US media outlets reported that the Biden administration had offered a prisoner exchange involving a Russian arms dealer detained in the US.

On Friday, Kirby told reporters that Russia had not responded to that offer, “but that doesn’t mean we haven’t negotiated or we haven’t tried yet.”

Last month, Moscow said it was “ready” to discuss a prisoner exchange deal with Washington.

Meanwhile, Griner’s relative, teammate and supporters have called on the US government to put its full weight behind the incident to push for her release.

Griner is accused of bringing vape canisters containing cannabis oil into Russia, where she was set to play for a basketball team in Yekaterinburg.

Despite deteriorating relations between Washington and Moscow, Russia in April freed Trevor Reed, a former US Marine. In return, the US released Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who is serving a 20-year sentence in the US for drug charges.

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