American WNBA star Brittney Griner remains in a Russian prison after a decision today by a Russian appeals court to uphold her nine-year sentence on drug smuggling charges.
The ruling now leaves Brittney Griner’s best chance for release in the hands of the United States government. According to The New York Times, the Biden Administration and representatives of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has been engaged in secretive negotiations to possibly include Griner in an exchange of prisoners. The U.S. government offered a swap in June, but Russian officials refused to discuss it until all legal recourse was met.
The article notes that the ruling by a three-judge panel means that Griner will soon be transported to a Russian prison colony to officially begin serving her sentence. President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, denounced the ruling as “another sham judicial proceeding” and said that U.S. officials have “continued to engage with Russia through every available channel” to free Griner and other Americans who have been wrongfully detained in the country.
The 6-foot-9-inch WNBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist was arrested on Feb. 17 as she was en route to Yekaterinburg, a city near the Ural Mountains, where she played for a women’s basketball team. Russian customs officials said they found two vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.
Griner was arrested mere weeks before the official start of the Russia-Ukraine War and many believe she is being held as a pawn against the U.S.
Sullivan noted that “the president has demonstrated that he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths and make tough decisions to bring Americans home.”
Biden and Putin will both be present at the Group of 20 leadership summit in Indonesia—and Biden has vowed to only speak to Putin if it was to discuss bringing Griner home.
Since Brittney Griner’s arrest, the WNBA community has rallied to keep her name present in the media. The WNBA Players Association and Athletes for Impact have launched a website called WeAreBG where fans and supporters can send her a message.
The website features resources and ways to get involved with the campaign as well a merchandise section featuring shirts, hoodies, face masks, and pins. All proceeds support Griner’s fight for her freedom.
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