(Washington) The families of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, imprisoned in Russia, have asked the private negotiator Bill Richardson to try to obtain their release, confirmed Monday the services of this former diplomat, whom American media believe to know that he will soon visit Moscow.
“What I can say is that both families, Whelan and Griner, have asked us to help free their loved ones,” Mickey Bergman, vice president of the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, told AFP. confirm this press information.
International basketball star Brittney Griner has been detained since February in Russia and pleaded guilty to drug smuggling after being arrested in possession of cannabis-based vaping liquid.
Paul Whelan, a former security manager for an auto parts company, detained since 2018, continues to maintain his innocence after being sentenced to 16 years in prison in Russia for espionage.
Former diplomat and minister, Bill Richardson has since converted to delicate missions to obtain the release of his compatriots detained by “hostile regimes”.
Although he does not act on behalf of the US government, he often works with its tacit approval.
Asked about it, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed on Monday that the US government had been in contact with Mr. Richardson.
“We are working directly with the Russian government through the appropriate channels to try to find a quick resolution to his case and that of Paul Whelan,” he said.
Bill Richardson had notably participated in discussions about another American prisoner in Russia, former US Marine Trevor Reed, released in April in exchange for Russian citizen Konstantin Yaroshenko.
Accused of delaying action on the Griner case, President Joe Biden recently spoke with the player’s wife and assured her of his efforts to “secure Brittney’s release as quickly as possible”. according to a statement from the White House.
He also spoke with Paul Whelan’s sister on Friday.
The latter’s brother, David Whelan, told AFP that Bill Richardson had not been appointed by the Biden administration.
“We hope that the governor [du Nouveau-Mexique entre 2003 et 2011, NDLR] Richardson will be able to have conversations that aren’t possible when you’re limited to government channels,” he said.