(NewsNation) — Marine veteran Trevor Reed is a free man after three years in Russian custody. News of Reed’s Russian prisoner swap raises hope for the cases of two other Americans being held in Russia: Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.
Brittney Griner, 31, is an Olympic gold medalist, seven-time all-star basketball player who earns extra money in the WNBA offseason by playing in Russia.
She was arrested in February as she went through a Russian airport near Moscow. Authorities say cannabis vape cartridges were found in her luggage.
She now faces 10 years in a Russian prison. The facts behind Griner’s case and the evidence gathered are still unclear.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told CNN on Wednesday morning that Griner’s case is a “top priority” for the U.S. Price told the outlet that the department is in regular communication with her team and engaging with the embassy in Moscow to make sure they have consistent access to her.
Price said the department is also seeking the release of Paul Whelan.
The 52-year-old is a former U.S. Marine and corporate security executive who was arrested at a Moscow hotel in 2018. Russia insists that Whelan is a spy. Whelan has denied their claims, his family saying he was in Russia for a wedding.
Whelan received a 16-year prison sentence in Russia.
Ryan Fayhee, Whelan’s attorney, said while they are overjoyed for the Reed family, it was a “disappointment” and “missed opportunity” for the U.S. to not include Whelan in the prisoner swap.
“We’re not aware specifically what the conversations that the U.S. government had and whether or not Paul was included within them. What I can say is as happy as we are for the Reed Family, obviously, it comes at a great disappointment, as you’ve just reported. You’ve seen how out of proportion the conduct of Konstantin Yaroshenko is in comparison with Trevor Reed, and to not have Paul back and be part of this negotiation is just simply disappointing and a missed opportunity,” Fayhee said.
Fayhee says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made efforts to bring Whelan home more complicated.
“We’ve been doing this since late 2018. We’re obviously at the lowest stage of U.S.-Russia relations in decades. What we have before us here, in reality, is an opportunity to de-escalate these relations and the first and best thing that can be done to achieve that de-escalation is to release Paul Whelan as soon as possible,” Fayhee said.
Whelan was notified of Reed’s release while working in his labor camp about nine hours east of Moscow. How is he doing? Fayhee says his client has maintained his strength.
“He’s a strong-willed individual. He’s obviously very nervous about the opportunity that was missed today and he hopes that President Biden is going to do everything within reason to bring him home as soon as possible,” Fayhee said.
Biden said the choice to only bring Reed home was a difficult one.
“The negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly,” Biden said.
While they are happy to have their son home, Reed’s parents say they were sad to see that Paul Whelan was not also part of the prisoner swap. They say Trevor told them he wanted to come home within the same timeframe as Whelan.
Reed’s family has not yet commented on Griner’s imprisonment.
There are currently 59 other U.S. nationals being held hostage or wrongfully detained, according to the James Foley Foundation.