Brittney Griner penned a letter to supporters to thank them during the 10 months she was locked up in a Russian prison and later in a penal colony. Griner, who was released from Russia earlier this month in a prisoner swap for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, took to Instagram and posted the letter while also addressing Paul Whelan.
“Thanks to the efforts of many, including you, I am home after nearly 10 months. You took time to show me you cared and I want to personally take the time to write you and say that your effort mattered,” her letter read. “Your letters helped me to not lose hope during a time where I was full of regret and vulnerable in ways I could have never imagined. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Because of you I never lost hope.
“Your letters were also bigger than uplifting me. They showed me the power of collective hands. Together, we can do hard things. I’m living proof of that. My family’s whole now, thanks to you. We are fortunate to get to spend the holidays together. However, there remain too many families with loved ones wrongfully detained.”
She then asked her fans reading the letter to also write to Whelan.
“Those families stood alongside you and all who supported the WeAreBG campaign, to bring me home and it’s our turn to support them. 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.
“Thank you again from the bottom of my heart. I hope your holiday season is full of joy and love.”
Whelan was arrested in December 2018 while visiting Moscow for a friend’s wedding. He was convicted of espionage charges that he and the U.S. government say are baseless. He is currently serving a 16-year sentence.
The Biden administration tried to trade for Whelan, but Russia told them to either take Griner or nothing at all.
Upon Griner’s release, President Biden said the U.S. was not giving up on Whelan.
“For totally illegitimate reasons, Russia is treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s, and while we have not succeeded in securing Paul’s release, we are not giving up,” Biden said.