President Joe Biden plans to meet at the White House on Friday, Sept. 16, with family members of Griner and Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan, both of whom remain jailed in Russia, senior administration officials told The Associated Press.
President Joe Biden plans to meet at the White House on Friday with family members of WNBA star Brittney Griner and Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan, both of whom remain jailed in Russia, the White House announced Thursday, AP reports.
“He wanted to let them know that they remain front of mind and that his team is working on this every day, on making sure that Brittney and Paul return home safely,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at Thursday’s press briefing at the White House.
The separate meetings are to be the first in-person encounter between Biden and the families and are taking place amid sustained but so far unsuccessful efforts by the administration to secure the Americans’ release. The administration said in July that it had made a “substantial proposal” to get them home, but despite plans for the White House meetings, there is no sign a breakthrough is imminent.
She added: “The Russians should accept our offer. The Russians should accept our offer today.”
Griner has been held in Russia since February on drug-related charges. She was sentenced last month to nine years in prison after pleading guilty and has appealed the punishment. Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence on espionage-related charges that he and his family say are false. The U.S. government regards both as wrongfully detained, placing their cases with the office of its top hostage negotiator.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the unusual step of announcing two months ago that the administration had made a substantial proposal to Russia. Since then, U.S officials have continued to press that offer in hopes of getting serious negotiations underway, and have been following up through the same channel that produced an April prisoner swap that brought Marine veteran Trevor Reed home from Russia, said a senior administration official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in advance of Thursday’s formal announcement.
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