Brittney Griner sent to Russian penal colony to serve 9-year sentence

WNBA star Brittney Griner has been transferred to a Russian penal colony to serve her nine-year sentence.

WNBA star Brittney Griner has been transferred to a Russian penal colony to serve her nine-year sentence, the Associated Press reports.

A Russian court rejected her appeal last month, despite hopes from her legal team that her sentence would at least be reduced.

Her legal team said that she was moved from the detention center on November 4, but added that they have not been informed of where she will end up. 

Griner, a star player with the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested in February 2022 at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after vape canisters containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage. She was convicted in August and sentenced to nine years in prison.

"Every minute that Brittney Griner must endure wrongful detention in Russia is a minute too long," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement released on Monday. "As the Administration continues to work tirelessly to secure her release, the President has directed the Administration to prevail on her Russian captors to improve her treatment and the conditions she may be forced to endure in a penal colony."

Her arrest came at a particularly tense time for American-Russian relations, and occurred mere days before Putin invaded Ukraine. It is possible that some kind of high-stakes prisoner exchange could be arranged between Washington and Moscow, though the current relationship between the two countries remains just as rocky.

"The US Government made a significant offer to the Russians to resolve the current unacceptable and wrongful detentions of American citizens," Jean-Pierre said. "In the subsequent weeks, despite a lack of good faith negotiation by the Russians, the US Government has continued to follow up on that offer and propose alternative potential ways forward with the Russians through all available channels."

In a statement stressing the work being done to secure Griner’s release, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that Russian authorities give the embassy regular access to Griner. However, an anonymous source within the state department said the Russians had not notified the US about Griner's transfer ahead of time, nor had they responded to queries from the American embassy regarding her current location or her ultimate destination. 

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