The legal team of American Professional Basketball player, Brittney Griner has said that the basketball star has been moved to a penal colony in Russia to serve her sentence for drug possession on Wednesday.
Recall that the two-time Olympic gold medalist was arrested at a Moscow airport on February 17 after she was found with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is banned in Russia. Her arrest came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, a few days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, and the politically charged case could lead to a high-stakes prisoner exchange between Washington and Moscow.
The basketball star who pleaded guilty in a Russian court had admitted she made an “honest mistake” and had not intended to break the law. She was however sentenced to nine years in a penal colony on charges of drug possession and smuggling on August 4.
In a statement, White House Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre condemned the wrongful detention of Griner in Russia. According to her, every minute she spends in detention is a “minute too long”. She noted that the Biden/Harris Administration has been working tirelessly to secure Griner’s release. Meanwhile, President Biden has directed the Administration to persuade the Russian police to improve the treatment and conditions Griner may be forced to endure in the penal colony.
Speaking further, Jean-Pierre said the U.S. government has made a significant offer to the Russians to resolve the persistent unacceptable and wrongful detention of American citizens.
“In the subsequent weeks, 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 the Russians through all available channels. The U.S. Government is unwavering in its commitment to its work on behalf of Brittney and other Americans detained in Russia – including fellow wrongful detainee Paul Whelan.”
The Associated Press and other news organizations have reported that Washington has offered to exchange Griner and Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage, for Viktor Bout. Bout is a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S. and once earned the nickname the “merchant of death.”