Joe Biden on Friday called Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Paul Whelan, an American sentenced to 16 years in prison in Russia for espionage and who claims his innocence, the White House said.
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"The US President reiterated to him 'that he is committed to bringing Paul home as soon as possible', and that the US government is 'continuing its efforts to secure the release of Paul as well as Brittney Griner and all Americans hostage or wrongfully incarcerated around the world,” said a US executive official.
“Basketball champion Brittney Griner pleaded guilty Thursday to smuggling drugs.
“The trial of the sportswoman, imprisoned in Russia since February after being arrested in possession of a cannabis-based vaping liquid, is being closely followed by Joe Biden, who has made her release a “priority”.
“And this at a time of extreme tension between the United States and Russia, since the invasion of Ukraine.
“Brittney Griner’s case has rekindled media attention around Paul Whelan, a former auto parts company security manager who has been detained since 2018.
“Speculation is rife around a possible prisoner exchange to obtain the release of these two American citizens.
“Washington and Moscow had resumed in April with this evocative practice of the Cold War: the former American Marine Trevor Reed had then been exchanged for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a pilot convicted of drug trafficking and imprisoned in the United States.