As Brittney Griner closes in on 240 days of being wrongfully detained in Russia, former New Mexico governor and ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson provided some hope the WNBA star might be coming back to the United States soon. Richardson went on CNN's “State of the Union” and said that in his informal talks with former colleagues in Russia that the country's officials are open to talk.
Richardson, who pointed out he is a private citizen and wasn't negotiating on behalf of the U.S. when he recently went to Moscow, said he is “cautiously optimistic” a prisoner swap could get done soon.
Along with Griner, former U.S. marine Paul Whelan is one of those Richardson believes could come home with the WNBA champion. Whelan has been detained since December of 2018 after being arrested on espionage charges.
Bill Richardson and Washington have not seen eye to eye on the process of getting Griner back to the United States. As the situation around the Russia-Ukraine war intensifies, the relationship between the U.S. government and Russia has been strained. The state department said in September private citizens should not negotiate prisoner swaps with Russia. Whalen did not abide by the state department's orders.
Brittney Griner was convicted of drug smuggling and was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison after she was detained this past February. Customs found vape cartridges containing .7 grams of hashish oil before imprisoning her. The U.S. government designated the six-time all-star as being “wrongfully detained” and has tried to negotiate her and Whelan's release.
WNBA players and coaches have continued to support Griner through daily social media posts and being vocal about wanting to see the government continue to engage Russia on a possible prisoner swap.