The Biden administration exchanged a convicted Russian drug smuggler with Russia last week in exchange for Trevor Reed a Marine veteran who has been imprisoned in Russia since 2019. The fate of WNBA superstar Brittney Griner and former marine Paul Whelan remains unclear.
What is clear, is that leaders in Washington and Moscow are still speaking to each other, regardless of the daily sputtering and saber-rattling following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested on February 17 for allegedly possessing cannabis oil in her baggage.
Like other female athletes who play abroad for extra income, Griner had been playing on a Russian team for the past seven years. The huge gender pay gap in professional sports places women at greater risk.
Whelan, who was arrested in Moscow in 2018 for espionage, was sentenced to 16 years of hard labor and is still being held in Russia.
Whelan expressed his concerns directly to President Joe Biden: Why was I left behind? While I am pleased that Trevor is home with his family, I have been held on a fictitious charge of espionage for 40 months, Whelan said from his Moscow prison. Why hasn't more been done to secure my release? Griner's Wife also breaks Her Silence: As I do everything in my power to get BG home, my heart is overflowing with joy for the Reed family, Griner's wife, Cherelle, wrote on Instagram. I do not know them personally, but I do know the pain of having your loved one detained in a foreign country. A safe return home can only remedy that level of pain. That day is today for the Reed family. President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken released statements praising Reed's release and promising to bring home Americans wrongfully detained abroad.
NBC reported that Biden administration officials said they are very aware that there are other Americans held in Russia, and added that Whelan and Griner are very much in our minds today, even as we are so happy for Trevor Reed's news. Photo: Courtesy of wikimedia.org and Lorie Shaull on Flickr.