WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was freed from a Russian prison camp on December 8, is urging her supporters to write letters to fellow American Paul Whelan, who remains imprisoned in Russia.
“Your letters were also bigger than uplifting me,” Griner said in a handwritten letter, which she posted to Instagram on Wednesday. “They showed me the power of collective hands.”
She added, “I hope you’ll join me in writing to Paul Whelan and continuing to advocate for other Americans to be rescued and returned to their families.”
Griner had been sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony when she was convicted in August of possessing vape canisters that contained 0.702 grams of cannabis oil in her luggage at a Moscow airport.
The Biden Administration negotiated her release in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. U.S. officials had hoped to secure a two-for-one swap, and include Paul Whelan, who’s serving a 16-year sentence in a penal colony in the Russian region of Mordovia following a 2018 arrest, but Moscow refused.
The Kremlin has accused Whelan of spying. His brother said he was merely in Moscow for a friend’s wedding and was given a USB drive.
In her letter on Wednesday Griner included a mailing address for Whelan, care of the Department of State in Washington.
She ended her letter, “Thank you again from the bottom of my heart. I hope your holiday season is full of joy and love.”