Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has helped the State Department negotiate for Americans detained abroad, may be facing his biggest challenge yet.
At the request of WNBA star Brittney Griner’s family, Richardson is actively working to get her out of Russia, where she has been detained since February.
Griner, a 6-foot, 9-inch player for the Phoenix Mercury, was taken into custody by Russian officials at a Moscow-area airport where they claim she was carrying vape cartridges with oil made from cannabis. She faces up to 10 years in prison, according to The New York Times.
The U.S. State Department just announced it considered Griner to be “wrongfully detained in Russia.” The designation affects how authorities handle her case.
Richardson, who is also a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, for years has been a key player in high-profile international hostage negotiations, and his most recent successful negotiation involved Russia. He and his Santa Fe-based Richardson Center helped secure the release of Trevor Reed, a former Marine held in Russia for two years on assault charges. The U.S. last week swapped a Russian pilot sentenced on cocaine trafficking charges for Reed, but only after Richardson flew to Russia to solidify the terms the day before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Now, his mission regarding Griner is next-level difficult.
But his record of success leaves us hopeful. A few of the notable releases cited on the Richardson Center website include Laura Ling, held by North Korea; Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by Hamas; and journalist Paul Salopek and two of his colleagues, held by the government of Sudan.
To go with his proven negotiating skills, we wish him all the luck in the world.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.