U.S. State Department Comments on Brittney Griner’s ‘Wrongful Detainment,’ Ongoing Prisoner Swap Discussions

by Bryan Fyalkowski

During his normal briefing on Monday, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price commented on Brittney Griner. He was asked about the verdict and sentencing of the WNBA star following her Russian trial.

“No element of this trial changes our judgment. Brittney Griner is being wrongfully detained and should be released immediately,” Price said, via ESPN’s T.J. Quinn. “We are in communication with the Russians on this matter and we encourage them to pursue this constructively.”

Yesterday – which was 11 days after the verdict – Brittney Griner’s lawyers filed an appeal on her behalf.

The grounds for appeal are not immediately apparent. However, lawyers Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov have argued that Griner’s sentence was too severe. They say that in similar Russian cases there is an average sentence of five years, while about a third of them receive parole.

As many noted, including Quinn, the point of an appeal is not to win, but to prevent her from serving time in a penal colony.

There is currently no known timetable for the appeal.

Prisoner Swap Discussions Involving Brittney Griner Continue

According to ABC News, a Russian spokesman confirmed on Sunday that talks of exchange involving Brittney Griner are underway.

“This quite sensitive issue of the swap of convicted Russian and U.S. citizens is being discussed through the channels defined by our presidents,” Alexander Darchiev, head of the foreign ministry’s North America Department, said. “The details should be left to professionals, proceeding from the ‘do not harm’ principle.”

Prior to the verdict and sentencing, it was reported that the U.S. would be willing to send Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner and Paul Whelan. Griner has been imprisoned since February 17, while Whelan has been behind bars in Russia since 2018.

President Joe Biden immediately released a statement on August 4 after Griner was found guilty:

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence. It is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” the statement read. “It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates.  My administration will continue to work tirelessly. We will pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”