Jul 12, 2022 - World

U.S. talking with former Gov. Bill Richardson on returning Americans held overseas

Department of Defense press secretary John Kirby told CNN Tuesday the Pentagon is regularly talking with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to work to release Americans being wrongfully held in Russia and around the world.

Why it matters: Richardson and his institution have successfully negotiated the release of several Americans detained abroad, including in Russia. Brittney Griner been detained there since February, while Paul Whelan has been held in the country since 2018.

  • In the past, Richardson has helped negotiate the release of journalist Danny Fenster who was held in Myanmar, and Trevor Reed, who was in Russia.

Details: When asked about a CNN report saying Richardson is expected to visit Russia in the coming weeks, Kirby said his department is in "frequent communication" with the former governor.

  • Richardson Center Vice President Mickey Bergman declined to confirm the trip when reached by Axios, but added that "both the Whelan and Griner families have asked us to help with the release of their loved ones.”

Kirby told CNN the DOD is focused on "government-to-government contact with Russia" to work to secure Griner and Whelan's release, along with others who the U.S. considers wrongfully detained around the world.

Background: Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, and the sister of Whelan, have each criticized U.S. efforts at securing their loved ones releases. But Cherelle Griner also recently praised the Biden administration's efforts.

State of play: President Biden had a call last week with Whelan's sister last week days after he and Cherelle Griner spoke on the phone.

Go deeper: Biden tells Paul Whelan's sister he's working to bring ex-Marine home

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