US Embassy staff visit Griner in prison
WASHINGTON — Officials from the United States Embassy in Moscow visited imprisoned WNBA star Brittney Griner on Thursday, just weeks after a Russian court rejected her appeal of her nine-year sentence for possession of dope.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a tweet that US officials “saw firsthand his tenacity and perseverance despite his current situation.”
Price said the Biden administration continues to push for the immediate release of Griner and Paul Whelan, who were sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison in Russia on espionage-related charges he and his family say are false, and “fair treatment for every American detained.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Griner is “doing as well as expected under the circumstances” and that the administration is working “to resolve the current unacceptable and unwarranted detentions” of Griner and Whelan.
Griner was convicted in August after police said they found vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.
His arrest in February came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, just days before Russia sent troops to Ukraine. Around this time, Griner was returning to play for a Russian team during the WNBA offseason.
She admitted at her trial to having the cartridges in her luggage, but testified that she had inadvertently packed them in her haste to take flight and that she had no criminal intent. His lawyers called the sentence excessive.
The United States views Griner and Whelan as wrongful detainees and attempts to negotiate with Russia for their release. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said over the summer the United States had made a “substantial offer” to Russia to try to bring the two home.
People familiar with the offer said the United States wanted to trade Whelan and Griner for a convicted Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout.
There have been no outward signs of progress since then in the negotiations.
Jean-Pierre told reporters traveling with the president in New Mexico that “despite a lack of good faith negotiation on the part of the Russians, the U.S. government has continued to follow up on this offer and offer other potential means to move forward with Russia through all available channels”. continues to be a top priority.”
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