Greiner and Whelan families meet Biden amid US-Russia talks

Washington (AFP) – President Joe Biden plans to meet at the White House on Friday with family members of WNBA star Britney Greiner and Michigan Executive Security Director Paul Whelan, both of whom remain imprisoned in Russia, senior administration officials told The Associated Press.

The separate meetings are set to be the first in-person meeting between Biden and the families, and take place amid sustained but so far unsuccessful efforts by the administration to secure the Americans’ release. The administration said in July that it had made a “substantial proposal” to bring them home, but despite plans to hold White House meetings, there is no sign that a breakthrough is imminent.

Greiner has been held in Russia since February on drug charges. She was sentenced last month to nine years in prison after pleading guilty and appealing the sentence. Whelan is serving a 16-year prison sentence on espionage charges that he and his family say are false. Both are considered by the US government to be illegal detainees, and their case is brought before the office of the chief hostage negotiator.

Friday’s meetings, long sought by both families, are meant to underscore the administration’s commitment to repatriating Greiner, Whelan and other Americans imprisoned abroad, as well as to “connect with them on a humanitarian level as they go through the plight of the Russian government,” one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. Anonymity, because the meetings have not yet been announced.

The negotiations were complicated by the strained relations between Washington and Moscow over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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