Brittney Griner. Austin Tice. The Citgo 6. And now, potentially, three American military veterans who were captured by enemy forces after traveling to Ukraine to fight Russia.
They are among nearly 50 Americans who the State Department believes are wrongfully detained by foreign governments. At least a dozen more Americans are being held as hostages — including by extremist groups — or on criminal charges that their families dispute.
American citizens are increasingly attractive targets for U.S. adversaries — including China, Russia, Iran and Venezuela — looking to use them as political pawns in battles with the United States.
Ms. Griner, a professional basketball player, is perhaps the most high-profile American to be snared by what the State Department has called dubious charges. She was detained in February at an airport near Moscow after authorities said they found hashish oil in her luggage. Her arrest came just days before Russian forces invaded Ukraine, which is being armed by the United States and its allies.
This past week, Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, said the Biden administration would continue to work to make sure that Ms. Griner, Paul Whelan — another American held by Moscow — and “all unjustly detained Americans and hostages are home safely.”
In a handwritten note to the president this month, Ms. Griner wrote, “I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home.”