The planned trip to Moscow by the former New Mexico governor and diplomat, who works privately on behalf of families of hostages and detainees, comes amid efforts by the US government to free the two Americans and as the pressure is mounting to bring them home quickly.
Both Whelan and Griner are considered wrongfully detained by the US government, and both of their families have worked with the nonprofit Richardson Center.
Mickey Bergman, executive director of the Richardson Center, told CNN, “we are unable to comment on this at this time.”
Richardson told CNN on Thursday after Griner’s call, “We believe that any prisoner in a situation like this should do what they think can help them survive the ordeal.”
“She is fighting for her life,” Richardson said, adding that he is “working hard to try to ensure the safe return” of Griner and Whelan from Russia, but declined to give further details due to the ” efforts underway”.
Whelan, a former Marine, was arrested in December 2018 on espionage charges which he vehemently denies. He was sentenced in June 2020 to 16 years in prison in a trial that US officials have denounced as unfair.
Richardson has a long history of working to free Americans held overseas and was instrumental in the release of Trevor Reed from Russian custody in April.
The Biden administration has repeatedly said that working to secure the release of Griner and Whelan, as well as the Americans wrongfully detained abroad, is a top priority.
CNN’s Chuck Johnston, Anna Chernova, Abby Phillip, Dakin Andone and Alaa Elassar contributed to this report.