Richardson helping to free WNBA star Brittney Griner from detention in Russia

(WASHINGTON) — In her struggle for freedom from detention in Russia, WNBA star Brittney Griner now has another big name in her corner: former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson.

A spokesperson for the Richardson Center confirmed to ABC News that the international hostage negotiator was working on Griner’s case, adding that her family asked for his assistance.

Richardson, who has also previously served as congressman, energy secretary, and governor of New Mexico, has carried out diplomatic missions to bring back Americans from Cuba, Iraq and North Korea.

Recently, he was credited with playing a critical part in securing the release of Trevor Reed, a former U.S. Marine who was held in a Russian prison for over two years.

While Richardson’s direct role in Griner’s case was first reported this week, he suggested at his involvement in an interview with ABC’s Linsey Davis following Reed’s release last week.

“The U.S. government is trying. On private efforts, we’re trying. I think this Trevor Reed initiative helps,” Richardson said on April 27. “Now the Russians are going to want something in return, and it’s very murky what has happened. But she deserves to come home.”

On Tuesday, Griner’s 75th day in Russian custody, the State Department said it would reclassify her case as a “wrongful detention,” signaling the U.S. would now play a more active role in negotiating for her release.

“We appreciate all of those who are very invested in this case, and Brittney Griner is fortunate to have a network who has supported her from Day One. We have worked very closely with that network,” said department spokesman Ned Price.

“We do often partner with various individuals and organizations on these cases,” Price added. “We welcome all of those efforts that are coordinated closely with us that might help to seek the safe release of any American who’s unjustly detained around the world.”

Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas said in a statement on Tuesday “our expectation is that the White House do whatever is necessary to bring her home.”

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was visiting Russia to play basketball off-season and was arrested in February at a Moscow area airport for allegedly having vape cartridges in her luggage that contained hashish oil — an illegal substance in Russia.

She is facing drug charges with up to 10 years in prison, according to Russian media reports, and her pre-trial detention was extended in March to May 19.

ABC News’ Courtney Condron contributed to this report.

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