New Brittney Griner, White House and State Dept. Details Emerge

by Sean Griffin
(Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. embassy officials met with WNBA star Brittney Griner on Thursday, the White House and State Department said. Griner has been locked up in a Russian prison since February after officials in Russia discovered cannabis oil in her luggage at the airport. She received nine years at her sentencing on August 4th. She also paid a fine of $16,500.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a tweet that U.S. Embassy officials in Moscow visited Griner and “saw firsthand her tenacity and perseverance despite her present circumstances.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reported from Air Force One, saying that Griner “is doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances.” Jean-Pierre said securing Griner’s release remains a “top priority” for the Biden administration.

Griner plays center for the Phoenix Mercury and is a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

After being found guilty in August of trying to smuggle illegal narcotics into the country, she was sentenced to nine years in prison. Griner appealed the decision. However, a Russian court denied her appeal in October, upholding the prison term.

“We continue to press for the immediate release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan and fair treatment for every detained American,” he continued.

Biden Administration Aims to Bring Home Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan

Whelan is a U.S. citizen and former Marine. He was detained in a Moscow hotel in 2018 and was then accused of spying. He is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence.

Family members of both Griner and Whelan have pressured the Biden administration to do more to bring them back home to the United States.

“The U.S. government made a significant offer to the Russians to resolve the current unacceptable and wrongful detentions of American citizens,” Jean-Pierre said.

“Despite a lack of good faith negotiation by the Russians, the U.S. government has continued to follow up on that offer and propose alternative potential ways forward with Russians through all available channels. This continues to be a top priority,” she added.

However, sources close to Griner believe that Russia won’t likely act until after the U.S. midterm elections on Nov. 8. They feel as though a swap could boost Biden’s standing politically.

However, Griner’s family and American officials have been concerned that she’ll be sent to the prison camp she was sentenced to. There, conditions are harsher and she would be far more vulnerable to abuse from inmates and staff. However, Blagovolina said even if the appeals court upholds the verdict, Griner probably won’t be moved soon.

“It’s a complicated process [that] can take anywhere from three weeks to three months,” she said.

Griner will be allowed to request a location, most likely somewhere close to Moscow, where her lawyers live.

However, as U.S. officials have stated repeatedly, Russia can do whatever it likes with Brittney Griner. Hopefully, officials work out a solution to bring both Griner and Whelan home.