Mon, 06 Feb 2023

Washington [US], December 9 (ANI): The United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has praised the release of American basketball player Brittney Griner from Russian detention. He stated that the administration will continue to make efforts to bring Paul Whelan back to the US.

Griner was released in a prisoner swap that involved Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, according to CNN. Blinken said that Cherelle Griner spoke to her wife Brittney and stressed that listening to them connect for the first time after the basketball player's release "was as moving as it was unforgettable." Blinken made the remarks during a joint press availability with Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom and Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto.

In his remarks, Blinken further said, "their strength and resilience have been nothing short of inspiring." He thanked the US State Department team and colleagues across the US government who worked tirelessly to secure the release of Brittney Griner. Blinken expressed gratitude to "Emirati friends", who he stressed assisted in Brittney Griner's transfer.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasised that securing the release of Americans who have been "wrongfully detained" remains a top priority for him. He acknowledged that the administration continues to make efforts to bring Paul Whelan back to the US. He asserted that Russia continues to remain unwilling to end the "wrongful detention" of Paul Whelan. He said that the US had the opportunity to bring one detainee home from Russia.

"And so while we're elated at Brittney returning home, we continue to work relentlessly to bring Paul Whelan home as well," Antony Blinken said.

"Despite our efforts, the Russian Government has not yet been willing to end his wrongful detention. They continue to insist on sham charges of espionage and are treating Paul's case differently. As a result, Paul and his loved ones continue to suffer needlessly and unjustly. This was not a choice of which American to bring home. The choice was one or none," he added.

Furthermore, Antony Blinken said that he "wholeheartedly" wishes that they could bring back Paul Whelan home on the same plane as Brittney Griner. He underscored that the US administration will continue to work with the Whelan family to secure his release.

He further said, "We will never relent until Paul and for that matter, every other U.S. national held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad is free and coming home and joining their families, where they belong." According to CNN, Whelan, a US citizen and a former marine who was arrested in 2018 on espionage charges, is serving a 16-year sentence. Paul Whelan has denied the charge.

Earlier on Thursday, US President Joe Biden shared a picture with Brittney Griner's wife on the microblogging site. While sharing the picture on Twitter, Biden said, "Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home." (ANI)

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