‘Top Chef’ Star Padma Lakshmi Has Words About Brittney Griner’s Russian Penal Colony Sentencing

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images)

Brittney Griner, a WNBA star who’s currently serving a nine-year prison sentence in Russia after authorities found cannabis oil in her luggage, has received international attention. Griner was originally arrested in February. And, while officials have mentioned a potential prisoner exchange to bring her home, there has been no progress. Earlier this month, reports broke that Russian authorities had relocated Griner from a prison in Moscow to one of the nation’s penal colonies. So far, though, its location has not been disclosed. With little information about Griner’s transfer available, Top Chef star Padma Lakshmi is offering her take on the athlete’s sentence.

Lakshmi’s take accompanied a repost of an article from Reuters, which offers some important information about the basketball player’s transfer. The Top Chef star herself tweeted, “WNBA star Brittney Griner was sentenced to *9 years* in a Russian penal colony for having 2 cannabis vape canisters in her luggage. Formerly known as a gulag, this is a work camp that uses sleep deprivation (hourly checks) & the denial of medical treatment to torture prisoners.”

Many of the tasks required of inmates are tedious, including performing jobs like sewing. Former prisoners have described the conditions of Russian penal colonies as “harsh and unhygienic.”

Lakshmi’s post drew further sympathy for Brittney Griner from her followers. In the comments, one person wrote, “OMG. My heart breaks for her and her wife.”

Another added, “Very sad! I hope that diplomacy secures an early release for her.”

Brittney Griner Reportedly Moved to Russia’s Mordovia Region

The Top Chef star’s tweet drew further attention from her fanbase. However, the Reuters article within the tweet helped provide more information regarding Griner’s specific location.

According to the news outlet, a source states that Brittney Griner has been taken to Female Penal Colony IK-2 in Yavas. The colony is located approximately 300 southeast of Moscow which is where the WNBA star had formerly been held.

This is also significant because, if this information is accurate, authorities have moved Griner to a penal colony located near where another American citizen continues to be held. Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who was accused of espionage in 2018, is also being held in the region of Mordovia. He is currently in the middle of serving a 16-year prison sentence in Russia. Whelan denies the claims.

The U.S. State Department’s spokesperson offered commentary regarding Brittney Griner’s transfer. They said, “We are aware of reports of her location, and in frequent contact with Ms. Griner’s legal team. However, the Russian Federation has still failed to provide any official notification for such a move of a U.S. citizen, which we strongly protest.”

Of their efforts in Russia, the spokesperson continued, “The Embassy has continued to press for more information about her transfer and current location.”