Brittney Griner All-Stars Brittney Griner, during the media day at Phoenix Mercury. Uscp 75fs9aqovsk1nhdf77xl Original

Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico who works extensively in hostage negotiations as part of his foundation, recently said he was “cautiously optimistic” that Russia would release imprisoned WNBA star Brittney Griner “before the end of the year.”

Griner is currently serving nine years in the Russian penitentiary after pleading guilty to bringing hashish oil in her luggage while boarding a domestic flight with her Russian Premiere League team.

United States president Joe Biden and former champion boxer Roy Jones Jr. have both unsuccessfully tried to free Griner.

However, this weekend, an aide for Russian president Vladimir Putin, Yury Ushakov, told Russian state television that the release of Griner was not a priority of Russia. He also insinuated Biden was most concerned with good publicity ahead of November’s midterm elections.

“In this tense situation, I think that he is thinking first and foremost about the upcoming midterm elections so he keeps emphasizing the need to bring back home the basketball player who was detained for drug smuggling, However, it’s not the main issue that we are concerned about,” Ushakov said in an interview with Rossiya-1.

Griner’s appeal to Russian authorities for early release will be held on Oct. 25th.

[The Guardian]