(The Hill) – A Russian official said on Sunday that the detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner isn’t a priority for the Kremlin despite President Biden repeatedly pushing for her release.
“In this tense situation, I think that he (Biden) is thinking first and foremost about the upcoming midterm elections,” Yury Ushakov, a close aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, told the state-run TV program “Moscow.Kremlin.Putin.”, according to USA Today.
“He keeps emphasizing the need to bring (Griner) back home … however, it’s not the main issue that we are concerned about.”
Ushakov’s remarks come after Griner’s wife, Cherelle, said in an interview last week she is terrified that her partner won’t ever return home.
The 31-year-old basketball star has been detained in Russia since February when she was arrested by authorities days after Russia began its unprovoked invasion of neighboring Ukraine. The seven-time WNBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist was handed down a nine-year prison sentence by a Russian court after pleading guilty to the charges against her.
The Biden administration has made Griner’s case, along with another wrongfully detained American, former U.S. Marine Paul Whalen, one of its top priorities.
President Biden said last week that he had no intention of meeting Putin at an upcoming Group of 20 summit, but would consider it if the Russian leader wanted to discuss Griner’s release.
Griner’s wife told CBS’ Gayle King in an interview on Thursday that she feels like she’s stuck in a movie.
“In no world would I have ever thought our president and a foreign nation president would be sitting down having to discuss the freedom of my wife,” she told “CBS Mornings” anchor. “It feels to me as if she is a hostage… It terrifies me.”
Cherelle Griner added that both Russia and the U.S. need to settle their differences and work on solutions to bring her partner home.
“My brain can’t even fathom it,” she told King. “I feel like every day I hear something new, and it’s terrifying.”