US consular officers spoke with Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan

The Biden administration is in contact with Russia as part of efforts to free Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.

ivan rodriguez gelfenstein

The Biden administration has had recent communications with Russia as part of ongoing efforts to secure the release of Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, a senior administration official said.

WNBA player Brittney Griner, who turned 32 on Tuesday, spent the day "away from her family, friends, teammates" in her cell outside Moscow, said her attorney Maria Blagovolina, who said Tuesday she spoke with CNN's Matthew Chance.

Blagovolina and his colleague Alexander Boykov talked about how they spent a few hours with Griner as part of an effort to "cheer her up as much as possible," relaying birthday messages from "everyone."

Her lawyers told CNN that as Griner's appeal hearing approaches Oct. 25, the athlete is feeling anxious and "very concerned about the outcome of the appeal."

"Brittney can't help but think that if this (prisoner) exchange doesn't happen, she'll have to spend her entire sentence in Russia. That is why she is very concerned about the outcome of the appeal," Boykov said.

Asked how much information the Russian legal team has about negotiations between Russia and the United States to secure his release, Blagovolina replied: "We are in Russia... I would say we have very little information about the state of the negotiations."

U.S. consular officials spoke by phone Tuesday with U.S. detainees in Russia Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said.

Despite the "fairly persistent" pace of negotiations between the U.S. and Russia to free the Americans, the official noted that the Biden administration has yet to receive a serious counteroffer from Moscow.

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