Ex-governador do Novo México. Bill Richardson is planning to travel to Russia to assist in talks to free WNBA star Britney Griner, quem foi detained in the country since February on drug possession charges.
Richardson, who served as New Mexico’s governor from 2003 para 2011, plans to travel to Moscow “in the next couple of weeks,” de acordo com ABC noticias, which cited an anonymous source “because of the sensitivity of the issue.”
The 74-year-old former governor runs an organization that negotiates for prisoner and hostage releases called The Richardson Center for Global Engagement. Richardson previously took part in negotiations between the U.S. and Russia that helped achieve a prisoner exchange that freed former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed from Russian custody in April, de acordo com ABC News. The former governor also represents another former Marine currently in Russia’s custody, Paul Whelan, who was arrested in Russia for alleged espionage in December 2019.
The Richardson Center did not confirm Richardson’s reported plans to travel to Russia to ABC and told PEOPLE in an email that they “are unable to comment on this, at the moment.”
“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, the organization’s executive director, told PEOPLE in an email.
While The Richardson Center has helped return Americans imprisoned abroad, Richardson does not represent the White House or the U.S. governo. His efforts to help free Reed included reaching out separately to the Biden administration and Russian government officials about their interest in making a deal and distributed that information back and forth; de acordo com ABC News, the trade the U.S. made for Reed was “the same one Richardson had been advocating for.”
Na quinta feira, 31-year-old Griner pled guilty to bringing cannabis products into Russia, where the product is illegal, and said she “inadvertently” broke the law.
In a statement shared with PEOPLE Thursday, Brittney’s legal team — Maria Blagovolina from Rybalkin Gortsunyan Dyakin and Alexander Boykov from Moscow Legal Center — says her plea “was her decision informed by discussion with her legal defense team in Russia.”
Nunca perca uma história - inscreva-se em Boletim semanal gratuito da PEOPLE para receber as maiores notícias da semana em sua caixa de entrada todas as sextas-feiras.
“Brittney sets an example of being brave. She decided to take full responsibility for her actions as she knows that she is a role model for many people,” a declaração continua.
Her lawyers say that because of “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 are hopeful that her plea will help the athlete avoid a “severe sentence.”
VÍDEO RELACIONADO: Brittney Griner se declara culpada por acusações de drogas na Rússia: ‘Eu não queria quebrar a lei’
Griner’s wife, Cherelle, told ABC News that she requested Richardson’s help and that she is “encouraged that he might be going [to Russia].” Cherelle said in a press conference Friday that she understands the U.S. government’s attempt to free Griner is “very challenging due to the circumstance.”
“So I want to make it very clear that our next move as supporters for BG is to make sure that the administration understands that they have our full support in doing any and everything necessary to be able to bring BG home as well as every other wrongfully detained American,” Cherelle disse.
Brittney, a center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, faces up to 10 anos de prisão. Her trial, que began on July 1, is expected to end with sentencing at the beginning of next month, her legal team told PEOPLE.