UPDATED 10:08 AM PT – Tuesday, August 23, 2022
The US State Department said it’s still on top of getting WNBA star Britney Griner released, five-months into her detention at a Russian prison.
On Monday, spokesman Ned Price spoke out against reports indicating former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman was traveling to Russia to negotiate Griner’s release. Price went on to claim Rodman’s actions could complicate talks with Russia. The official urged the public to trust the Biden administration to get the job done.
However, the State Department has allowed A former New Mexico governor to negotiate the releases of Trevor Reed from Russia and other Americans held captive in Myanmar. This occurred despite them not being employed by the US government for more than 20 years. Additionally, late last year, the Biden administration was criticized by families of Americans detained abroad for not even being able to get meetings with White House officials.
Despite this, Price reiterated the tried and true method will work. He stressed, no unofficial envoy will bypass the efforts of US diplomats.
“I want to be clear, he is, he would not be traveling on behalf of the US government,” said the spokesman. “I’ve just reiterated what we’ve said now for the past several weeks. We put forward a substantial proposal to Russia to seek the freedom of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner. We believe that anything other than negotiating further through the established channel is likely to complicate and hinder those release efforts. We’ve also provided very clear guidance to American citizens owing to a number of threats, not the least of which is the threat of wrongful detention that Americans should not travel to Russia. That has been our message to private Americans across the board.”
NBC News reported over the weekend that Rodman had told the outlet he was going to travel to Russia this week. Rodman has been known to hold informal talks with leaders who are at odds with the Washington establishment.
His relationship with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un paved the way for talks between the nation and the Trump administration in 2018 that were seen as the first sign of hope that North Korea could lay down its nuclear arms in years. Rodman said at the time, he was going to keep pushing for peace with America’s adversary, despite being criticized by past administrations and mainstream media outlets.
In the meantime, Giner faces nine-years in prison after being found with hashish oil in her possession at a Russian airport, while retired Marine Paul Whelan has been incarcerated in 2018 on allegations of spying. Diplomats are offering to exchange arms dealer Viktor Bout in a prisoner swap to bring the two Americans home.
Meanwhile, critics of the Biden administration are calling out officials for paying this much attention to Griner, pointing out Joe Biden and Kamala Harris led efforts to incarcerate massive amounts of Americans for similar crimes.