American basketball superstar Brittany Griner, who has been in custody for four months on drug charges in Russia, has written to US President Joe Biden, pleading for help.
“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, US authorities released excerpts of which.
“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.”
Griner was detained at Moscow airport after vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were allegedly found in his luggage, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The Phoenix Mercury All-Star centre and two-time US Olympic gold medalist Griner also mentioned 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, 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 wrote.
US officials have said they are “working aggressively, using every means available to bring him home”.
Despite tensions imposed by the situation in Ukraine, Russia and the United States conducted an unexpected prisoner exchange in April, trading ex-Marine Trevor Reid for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who served 20 years for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine was serving a federal sentence.
While the U.S usually does not accept such exchanges, it made the deal partly because Yaroshenko had already served an extended part of his prison sentence. The Russians may consider Griner a potential role in another such exchange.