Biden speaks with wife of basketball star detained in Russia
US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 1, 2022 Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV AFP/File

President Joe Biden spoke with the wife of women's basketball star Brittney Griner on Wednesday, telling her that he is working to secure her spouse's release from Russian detention, the White House said.

Two-time Olympic champion Griner -- who has been held in Russia since February -- faces up to 10 years in prison on charges of smuggling cannabis vape cartridges into the country.

"President Biden, joined by Vice President Harris, spoke today with Cherelle Griner, the wife of Brittney Griner who is wrongfully detained in Russia under intolerable circumstances," the White House said in a statement.

"The president called Cherelle to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney's release as soon as possible," and read her a draft of a letter he is sending to the WNBA star, it added.

Griner, 31, was detained in the days before Russia began its full-on assault on Ukraine, after which the United States and its allies imposed unprecedented economic sanctions on Moscow.

Her case has become one of many sticking points in relations between the United States and Russia, with Washington putting its special envoy in charge of hostages on the case.

Griner had asked Biden to help free her from Russian prison in a hand-written letter presented to the White House on US Independence Day.

"I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don't forget about me and the other American Detainees," Griner wrote. "Please do all you can to bring us home."

© 2022 AFP