Brittney Griner, the American basketball superstar detained in Russia, has written to
US President Joe Biden pleading for help.
Ms Griner has been held for over four months on what Russia says are drug charges.
In the letter, which arrived on Monday, she wrote about her fear that she might never
return to US soil.
Government officials confirmed they received communication from the Phoenix
“President Joe Biden
held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad released, including Brittney Griner,
” said a spokeswoman from the National Security Council on Monday.
US authorities also reiterated that they are working “aggressively – using every
available means – to bring her home”.
I’m terrified I might be here forever
While much of Brittney Griner’s letter to the president has been kept private,
excerpts reveal her mental state during detention.
“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,” she wrote.
“I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are
suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to
get me home.”
Read Also:WNBA star Brittney Griner ordered to trial Friday in Russia
Ms Griner also reminded the president in her letter, which arrived on US
Independence Day, of her father’s military service in Vietnam.
“On the 4th of July, our family normally honours the service of those who fought for
our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam war veteran.”
“It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means
something completely different to me this year” she added.
And she asked the president not to forget other US citizens detained by Russia.
“Please do all you can to bring us home,” she wrote. “I voted for the first time in 2020
and I voted for you. I believe in you.”
Ms Griner has been held in Russia since her 17 February arrest at Moscow’s
Sheremetyevo airport after cannabis oil was allegedly found in her luggage.
She is currently on trial and if convicted could face up to ten years in prison.
Fewer than 1% of defendants in criminal cases are acquitted in Russia.
However unlike in US courts, even if she is acquitted, Russia’s government has the
authority to overturn any decision and send her to prison.
One of the most successful players in female basketball, the double Olympic
champion plays the Women’s NBA (WNBA) off-season in Russia.
Ms Griner plays in the EuroLeague team UMMC Ekaterinburg, where she has worked
Roughly half of WNBA players compete overseas in the off-season.
For most, it’s a way to augment their domestic income, with WNBA players being paid
roughly five times more in Russia than they do in the US.
Ms Griner’s trial comes amid Russia’s war in Ukraine and her detention was days
before the invasion of Ukraine.
While there is no indication that Ms. Griner’s arrest was connected to the invasion of
Ukraine, some US officials have indicated strained US-Russian relations may
jeopardize her safe return.
“We don’t want Ms. Griner to become a pawn in the political battle that’s being waged
throughout the world right now,” said US Congressman John Garamendi, a member of
the House of Representatives armed services committee in June.
“The war in Ukraine has essentially severed diplomatic ties between the US and
Russia,” Mr. Garamendi said. “That is going to exacerbate this issue.”
Russia denies that her detention is motivated by US-Russia tensions.