President Joe Biden to Meet with Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan's Family Members

·4 min read

President Joe Biden will meet with family members of detained Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan on Friday, the White House announced.

Biden is scheduled to speak with the WNBA star's wife, Cherelle Griner, and Whelan's sister, Elizabeth, according to reporting from NPR. Both Griner and Whelan have been considered "wrongfully detained" by the Biden administration.

"As we have said before, we believe that Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney and Paul under intolerable circumstances," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. "And as you know, we have been directly engaged with the Russian government through appropriate channels."

Earlier talks between Biden and Russian law enforcement suggested Griner and Whelan may be exchanged for Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout. However, with no new updates on her next possible steps, "Brittney is stressed and very much concerned with the future," her lawyer Maria Blagovolina, a partner at Rybalkin Gortsunyan Dyakin and Partners, previously told PEOPLE.

US basketball player Brittney Griner (R) is escorted by police before a hearing during her trial on charges of drug smuggling, in Khimki, outside Moscow on August 2, 2022. - Griner was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport in February 2022 just days before Moscow launched its offensive in Ukraine. She was charged with drug smuggling for possessing vape cartridges with cannabis oil. Speaking at the trial on July 27, Griner said she still did not know how the cartridges ended up in her bag. (Photo by Natalia
US basketball player Brittney Griner (R) is escorted by police before a hearing during her trial on charges of drug smuggling, in Khimki, outside Moscow on August 2, 2022. - Griner was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport in February 2022 just days before Moscow launched its offensive in Ukraine. She was charged with drug smuggling for possessing vape cartridges with cannabis oil. Speaking at the trial on July 27, Griner said she still did not know how the cartridges ended up in her bag. (Photo by Natalia

NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty

RELATED: Brittney Griner Is 'Struggling' and 'Terrified' in Russia, Says Wife Cherelle

Cherelle, who calls her wife "BG," said that she's very concerned over her wife's wellbeing during a June interview with Rev. Al Sharpton. "BG is struggling, she's human," Cherelle said on Sharpton's SiriusXM show Keepin' It Real. "She's there terrified, she's there alone."

Cherelle said that she knows Brittney isn't fully expressing her worries to protect Cherelle from the truth. "Because I'm her person she will always try and write persuasively to make sure I don't break because she knows I'm studying for my bar and she knows I have all these things going on and she's trying to always be my strong person."

Brittney Griner, Joe Biden
Brittney Griner, Joe Biden

Tim Clayton/Corbis/Getty; Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty

Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison on Aug. 4 on charges of smuggling drugs into the country, just below the maximum sentence of 10 years. After the trial, Blagovolina had said the sentence was "absolutely unreasonable," and that she and Griner's legal team will file an appeal as soon as possible. That happened on Aug. 15, and nearly a month later, they're still waiting to learn what day the hearings will start, Blagovolina says.

US' Women's National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball player Brittney Griner (C), who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, is escorted before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4, 2022. - Lawyers for US basketball star Brittney Griner, who is standing trial in Russia on drug charges, said on July 26, 2022 they hoped she would receive a "lenient" sentence.
US' Women's National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball player Brittney Griner (C), who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, is escorted before a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4, 2022. - Lawyers for US basketball star Brittney Griner, who is standing trial in Russia on drug charges, said on July 26, 2022 they hoped she would receive a "lenient" sentence.

EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/POOL/AFP via Getty

On July 4, excerpts from a letter that the WNBA star penned to Biden were released by Griner's representatives. In the letter, obtained by ESPN's T.J. Quinn, Griner pleaded for freedom and expressed her fear that she may never return home.

"... as I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey or any accomplishments, I'm terrified I might be here forever," she wrote.

RELATED: Inside the Russian Penal Colony Where Brittney Griner Will Serve Her 9-Year Prison Sentence

"On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those men who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War Veteran," another excerpt read. "It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year."

The letter to President Biden was handwritten, per ESPN. It is unclear how the letter was transported from Griner to the White House. Addressing President Biden directly, Griner acknowledged that he has many important matters at hand at this time, but begged him to help her, as well as the other detainees in Russia.

RELATED VIDEO: Brittney Griner Sentenced to 9 Years in Russian Prison on Drug Possession Charges

"I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don't forget about me and the other detainees," she pleaded. "Please do all you can to bring us home. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore."

"I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home," she added.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist, was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport in February after vape cartridges containing hash oil, an illegal substance in Russia, were found by authorities in her luggage.