Reed and Whelan were arrested and convicted for alleged crimes they’ve emphatically denied well before the Russian incursion of Ukraine, and the pair remain in prison serving extended sentences denounced by US officials as unfair.
Here’s what we know so far about their detentions.
Griner’s whereabouts have not been shared by authorities
“There are no words to express this pain. I’m hurting, we’re hurting,” she said.
The Biden administration is working on getting Griner out of Russia, members of the Congressional Black Caucus said after meeting with President Joe Biden on Monday.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents Griner’s hometown of Houston, said in a statement she spoke of Griner during the meeting and noted there is a “need for her to be immediately released and for her to receive the help of the United States to demand and facilitate that release.”
“Our diplomatic relationships with Russia are nonexistent at the moment,” Rep. John Garamendi, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said.
Reed family spoke with President Biden Tuesday
Russian authorities claimed Reed resisted arrest and attacked officers as they responded to complaints of a disturbance, according to Russian state-run news agency RIA-Novosti.
Alina Tsybulnik, Reed’s girlfriend who was with him that night, heavily disputed police allegations, telling TASS, “(The police) constantly change their story … in my opinion, Reed was too drunk to resist them.”
Reed and his family have denied the charges and US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan called the trial “theater of the absurd” after the 2020 sentencing.
An attempt to set up a meeting with Biden ahead of the visit was declined, the family said, but Biden later spoke with them via phone.
“I just can’t imagine what you’re going through,” Biden could be heard saying on the cell phone’s speaker by a CNN producer and other reporters at the scene. “I don’t want you to think that it’s not something I constantly think about.”
The Reeds grew emotional and stepped away from reporters for the remainder of the conversation with the President, but Paula Reed later shared details of the call, including that Biden told them he “thinks of Trevor every day and that he feels horrible that he hasn’ t been able to bring Trevor home yet. And he said, ‘We’re not going to stop.'”
“He said, ‘I don’t have anything to say to the President. I think that they have forgotten about me,'” Reed said. “We have not (forgotten about him). We love our son and we’re going to fight to our dying day to bring him home.”
Family pushes for Whelan’s release
Whelan was getting through his plight “day by day,” he told CNN, and was trying to keep “a positive mental attitude” about the situation.
“An unfortunate component about advocating for someone who is wrongfully detained is you have to make your presence known. There’s always a crisis going on, and you have to keep reminding people that there is an American who is being held by a hostile foreign nation, often one that we have relations with of some sort, and that this situation has to end,” Elizabeth Whelan told CNN in December.
She praised her brother’s perseverance, adding that he “is bound and determined to survive this situation, and he is not going to give in to the Russians. He is not going to show weakness.”
CNN’s Holly Yan, Lucy Kafanov, Rosa Flores, Wayne Sterling, Chris Boyette, Maegan Vazquez, Ashley Killough, Ed Lavandera, Raja Razek and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.