WASHINGTON (AP) — American basketball star Brittney Griner and her wife are concerned about the detainment in Russia of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and said “we must do everything in our power to bring him and all Americans home.”
“Every American who is taken is ours to fight for and every American returned is a win for us all,” Griner, who was held in Russia for most of last year, said in a statement with Cherelle Griner posted Saturday night on Instagram.
Russian security officials took Gershkovich, 31, into custody on Thursday and accused him of spying. The newspaper denied the charge and demanded his release.
President Joe Biden on Friday urged Russia to release Gershkovich, the first American correspondent to be detained on spying accusations since the Cold War.
Brittney Griner was detained in Russia for 10 months after being arrested at an airport near Moscow on drug possession charges. She returned to the U.S. in a prisoner exchange in December involving Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
The Griners said in their statement they were grateful for Biden and his administration’s efforts to rescue those being held abroad, noting the recent release of Jeff Woodke more than six years after his kidnapping in Niger and Paul Rusesabagina, a U.S. legal resident, after his imprisonment for more than two years in Rwanda.
The Griners called on their supporters to encourage the administration to do everything possible to bring wrongly detained Americans home.
With Russia’s Federal Security Service accusing Gershkovich of trying to obtain classified information, more than 30 news organizations and press freedom advocates have written to Russia’s U.S. ambassador to express concern Russia is sending the message that reporting inside the country is criminalized.