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Biden calls Cherelle Griner to speak about her wife’s detention in Russia

July 6, 2022 Updated Wed., July 6, 2022 at 12:32 p.m.

By Tania Ganguli and Ivan Nechepurenko New York Times

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Cherelle Griner, the wife of WNBA star Brittney Griner, according to a statement released by the White House. Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia on drug charges since February.

During the call, Biden read a draft of a letter he planned to send to Brittney Griner.

“The president offered his support to Cherelle and Brittney’s family, and he committed to ensuring they are provided with all possible assistance while his administration pursues every avenue to bring Brittney home,” the statement read.

Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17, accused by Russian authorities of having a vape cartridge with hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. Her trial began Friday. On Monday, she sent a handwritten letter to Biden asking him not to “forget about” her and other American detainees.

The White House statement said Biden had instructed his national security team to keep in “regular contact” with Cherelle Griner and Brittney Griner’s family. Cherelle Griner has publicly expressed frustration with Biden and his administration’s efforts to secure her wife’s release.

On Wednesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that Brittney Griner could appeal her sentence or ask for clemency once the court delivers its verdict.

“The court must first deliver its verdict, but no one is stopping Brittney Griner from making use of the appeal procedure and also from requesting clemency,” Alexei Zaitsev, a ministry spokesperson, told reporters at a news briefing in Moscow.

Zaitsev said that Griner’s “serious offense has been supported by indisputable evidence” and that “attempts to present her case as though the American woman was illegally detained do not stand up to criticism.”

If she is convicted, Griner faces up to 10 years in a Russian penal colony.

The U.S. government has classified her as “wrongfully detained” and is working to secure her release regardless of the outcome of the trial.

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