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Biden to meet Friday with families of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan

President Biden will meet Friday with the families of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, two Americans who have been detained in Russia.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden will host both families at the White House “to discuss his continuing commitment to bringing their family members home safely.”

“One of the reasons he is meeting with the families is he wanted to let them know they remain front of mind and his team is working on this every day, making sure that Brittney and Paul return home safely,” Jean-Pierre said at a briefing with reporters.

One of the family members was already going to be in Washington, D.C., Jean-Pierre said, and Biden invited the other family members so he could meet with both families at the same time.

Griner, a star in the WNBA and an Olympic gold medalist, was detained in February for bringing vape cartridges with hashish oil into Russia. Griner pleaded guilty last month, but she has insisted she did not intend to break the law. She was later sentenced to nine years in prison.

Whelan is a former Marine who has been held in Russia since 2018 on spying charges that he vehemently denies. In 2020 he was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

The Biden administration maintains both Griner and Whelan are being wrongfully detained.

The Biden administration had reportedly floated a potential prisoner swap in which Griner and Whelan would be released in exchange for convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout. Officials have publicly confirmed that they offered an exchange but have not explicitly said if it involved Bout.

Source: The Hill

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