Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is supposedly planning a trip to Russia to help secure the freedom of detained WNBA star Brittney Griner. A source told ABC News—who requested to remain anonymous because of the delicate nature of the matter—that Richardson will head to the country within the next couple of weeks.
His team shared that they “are unable to comment on this at the moment” when it came to questions about the possible visit. “What I can say (and is publicly known) is both the Whelan and Griner families have asked us to help with the release of their loved ones,” Mickey Bergman, executive director at the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, explained in a statement.
Richardson is the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and energy secretary in the Clinton administration. He also was pivotal in a prisoner exchange in April in which Russia released former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed after over two years in captivity. Russia has expressed interest in exchanging Griner for Russians being held in U.S. prisons.
The basketball star has been in Russian detention since February after she was stopped at a Moscow airport. Authorities accused Griner of having vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. Last week, Griner pled guilty and stated that she did not mean to leave the cartridges in her bag. She faces up to 10 years in prison.
In a statement, Griner’s legal team shared that due to “the nature of her case, the insignificant amount of the substance and BG’s personality and history of positive contributions to global and Russian sport,” they believe she won’t be subject to a “severe sentence.” She is expected to be sentenced next month.