President Biden Addresses Brittney Griner Situation After Her Transfer to Russian Penal Colony

by Sean Griffin
(Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images)

Now that U.S. midterm elections are behind us, American leaders hope to bring Brittney Griner back home. In February, the basketball star was arrested for drug possession at a Russian airport. She was then sentenced to 9 years in prison last month. Her lawyers say she is serving that sentence inside of a Russian labor camp. 

U.S. officials have accused Russia of using her as a political pawn. They’ve since been trying to negotiate her release. “She is being held unjustly. She should be released immediately,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said. 

President Joe Biden says he possesses a renewed faith in improving the situation. “My hope is that now that the election is over, that Mr. Putin will be able to discuss with us and be willing to talk more seriously about prisoner exchange,” Biden said. 

Sullivan says that the U.S. has made multiple offers to secure Griner’s release. However, apparently Russia hasn’t agreed to anything. “So far the Russians have not shown a willingness to engage in that back and forth to produce a result,” Sullivan said. 

Leaders haven’t revealed much about the details of those negotiations. This makes sense as they aim not to jeopardize any chance of reaching a deal. 

Brittney Griner’s Family Holding Out Hope That She Returns Home Soon

Even though work is being done to secure her release, Biden says his administration will not give up its efforts. “I am determined to get her home and get her home safely,” Biden said. 

Griner’s team is putting their trust in U.S. officials, saying they’re “thankful for everyone’s support.” They have waning hope that she’ll be returned in time for the holidays. 

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.

Now, after officially hearing her sentence, the renowned basketball player has been moved to a notorious Russian penal colony. Other prisoners there have reportedly complained of unusually harsh conditions.

According to the Daily Mail, Brittney Griner’s whereabouts remain unknown. However, prisoners at this particular colony have spoken out about “slavery-like conditions.”

Unsurprisingly, Griner’s family and fans have wanted to stop the move. Unfortunately, her transfer initially began Friday. Reportedly, the news outlet states that both the athlete’s attorney and U.S. officials were unaware of the move until Tuesday. Notifications of prisoner transfers come by mail, which typically takes two weeks, causing the delay.

Griner’s family is part of the “Bring Our Families Home” campaign. It advocates for the immediate release of wrongfully-held detainees.