Biden gets involved in freeing WNBA star from a Russian jail. Here’s what you need to know

Biden gets involved in freeing WNBA star from a Russian jail. Here’s what you need to know
FILE PHOTO: U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained in March at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, is escorted before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia July 1, 2022. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo

As tensions were escalating between Russia and Ukraine in February, a WNBA basketball player named Brittney Griner was arrested in a Russian airport for charges of carrying vape cartridges containing hash oil – something illegal there. But the US State Department, which has been trying to get her freed from jail in Russia, said that the detention of Griner was wrongful, meaning they believe her arrest to be politically motivated rather than based on law.

So far, President Biden has remained uninvolved. That is, until now. On Wednesday, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris called Griner’s wife to say that they were increasing pressure to free the player. The call came only a couple of days after a handwritten letter from Griner pleading for help made its way to the White House.

Key comments:

“President Biden, joined by Vice President Harris, spoke today with Cherelle Griner, the wife of Brittney Griner who is wrongfully detained in Russia under intolerable circumstances," said a White House statement.

“As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever," Griner wrote in a letter to Biden.

“It kills me every time that, you know, when I have to write her and she’s asking, ‘Have you met with them yet?’ And I have to say no," said Cherelle Griner to CBS earlier this week. “I’m sure she is like, ‘I’m going to write him and ask now because my family has tried to no avail, so I’m going to do it myself.'"