“Today President Biden called Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Paul Whelan wrongfully detained by Russia since 2018. President Biden reaffirmed his commitment to bringing Paul home as soon as possible, and the government American will continue its efforts to secure the release of Paul as well as Brittney Griner and all other Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained around the world,” the White House official said.

“The U.S. government will continue to be in regular contact with Paul’s family, as well as the families of other Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad, to provide support and assistance and to keep them informed of the efforts to secure the release of their loved ones,” he added. continued the White House official.

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Elizabeth Whelan expressed anger that the White House appears to be “showing favoritism” and asked why Biden hadn’t spoken with his family.. Whelan and Griner are currently being held in Russia.

“I want Brittney home as much as anyone else. But why isn’t Paul getting the same level of attention? Why aren’t the Whelans getting a call? Why isn’t Paul getting Is there no letter from the president? (Paul’s) has made many statements to the president,” she told CNN. “I’m really angry. I’m really angry.”

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with Elizabeth Whelan on Thursday.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke by phone Wednesday with Cherelle Griner, wife of WNBA star Brittney Griner, and the president also wrote a letter in response to Brittney Griner’s handwritten letter.

The wife of the two-time U.S. Olympic basketball gold medalist told a news conference on Friday that Biden understood the letter Griner wrote to her and that “he sees her as a person.”

Griner, who was arrested in February at a Moscow airport after Russian officials said they found cannabis oil in her luggage, pleaded guilty to drug charges on Thursday.

The US State Department has classified her as wrongfully detained and she faces up to 10 years in prison.

The renewed calls for the release of Whelan and Griner come just months after US citizen and former Marine Trevor Reed, detained in Russia since 2019, was freed under a prisoner swap deal.

He was sentenced to nine years in prison in July 2020 after being accused of endangering “the life and health” of Russian police officers. Reed’s deteriorating health, his family’s ongoing activism that led to a meeting with Biden, and the situation in Ukraine – led Biden to authorize the prisoner swap in April.

Upon his release, Reed’s family told CNN, “He said, ‘I feel awful to be home and not have Paul here.’ He said, ‘I don’t understand why I’m here and Paul isn’t.’ “

This story has been updated with additional details.

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