Late last month, WNBA star Brittney Griner was convicted of drug smuggling by a Russian court. Officials initially arrested Griner at a Moscow airport after they found remnants of hashish oil in her luggage. Days after her appeal was denied, the Russian court announced they would be moving the professional athlete to one of the nation’s penal colonies. However, they did not disclose its location. Now, as the U.S. government barters with Russia about Griner’s case, the U.S. State Department claims Russia is still keeping the athlete’s “specific” location a secret.
According to Fox News, Griner was transferred to a Russian penal colony two weeks ago. Former prisoners argue that the colony she’s potentially been moved to utilizes their prisoners like slaves. The news outlet further reports that the Russian government has yet to inform the White House about Brittney Griner’s specific location. And that’s despite the fact that two weeks have passed since the transfer took place.
Vedant Patel, principal deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, offered what information the U.S. government is aware of regarding Griner’s transfer.
“We are aware of the reports of her location and in frequent contact with Ms. Griner’s legal team, but the Russian Federation has still failed to provide any official notification for such a move of a U.S. citizen, which we strongly protest and disagree with,” he said.
He added, “Our mission in our embassy in Russia has continued to press for more information about her transfer and her specific current location. Following this sham trial and the unjust sentencing, the Russian Federation is transferring her from a prison to a remote penal colony.”
Government Officials State Russia Has Not Agreed to Any Kind of Prisoner Exchange for Brittney Griner
Brittney Griner is one of two Americans that continue to be held by the Russian prison system. Brittney Griner has been detained by Russian authorities since her arrest in February. The second American held within the Russian prison system is Canadian-born former U.S. Marine, Paul Whelan. Whelan was arrested in December 2018 after being accused of spying. He’s currently facing a 16-year prison sentence. As the U.S. government continues to await word regarding the WNBA star’s location, President Joe Biden and other high-ranking officials also spoke out about what little information the Russian Federation has provided. Biden also spoke out about the state of talks regarding prisoner exchanges.
Following the United States November 8th election, Biden said, “My hope is now that the election is over, that Mr. [Vladimir] Putin will be able to discuss with us and be willing to talk more seriously about prisoner exchange.”
Still, he added, “I am determined to get her home and get her home safely.”
Other U.S. officials, however, are much less hopeful. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan previously offered his input.
“She is being held unjustly. She should be released immediately. So far the Russians have not shown a willingness to engage in that back and forth to produce a result.”