WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement on the release of Brittney Griner:
“The news this morning of Brittney Griner’s release is a welcome development toward our collective efforts to secure the return of all those wrongfully detained in Russia. I can only imagine the pain and heartache she and her family have been going through since her detention almost ten months ago, and I join them in this moment of profound relief as she returns to her life here in the United States.
“To be clear, Ms. Griner should have been released immediately and unconditionally a long time ago. Putin has known that all along. This should be a moment of deep reflection for the United States government to recognize we have a serious problem with hostage-taking of Americans. The Russians and other regimes that take American citizens hostage cannot pretend that there is equivalence between the Brittney Griners of the world and people like Viktor Bout, the so-called ‘Merchant of Death.’ Nothing could be further from the truth, and we cannot ignore that releasing Bout back into the world is a deeply disturbing decision. We must stop inviting dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans overseas as bargaining chips, and we must try to do better at encouraging American citizens against traveling to places like Russia where they are primary targets for this type of unlawful detention.
“My heart also goes out to the families of other American citizens in Russian prisons and labor camps, including Paul Whelan. They have my renewed commitment and determination to use the power of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to secure Mr. Whelan’s safe return and to continue fighting for the release of all Russian political prisoners, like Vladimir Kara Murza, and all other unjustly detained Americans.”