On Thursday I met with the U.S. Embassy officials in Russia, WNBA star Brittney Griner, who is facing nine years in a Russian prison, according to State Department spokesman Ned Price.
“Despite her present circumstances they saw first hand her tenacity and perseverance. For the immediate release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan we continue to press for fair treatment for every detained American”, Price said in a tweet announcing the visit.
U.S. officials have been able to gain direct Griner since early August Thursday’s visit marks the first time. Over the phone on her birthday on Oct. 18 they were able to speak with her, most recently.
During the WNBA’s offseason after she was accused of having vape cartridges containing hashish oil, which is illegal in the country Griner, a 31-year-old Houston native who plays professional basketball for the Phoenix Mercury, was detained on Feb. 17 as she returned to Russia to play at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Khimki.
Griner is “doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances” the Biden administration was told, on Thursday White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
For the White House continues to be a “top priority”, securing the freedom of Griner and Whelan, a U.S. citizen and former Marine who has been detained in Russia since 2019, , Jean-Pierre said.
Wrongful detentions of American citizens Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan “As we have said before, to resolve the current unacceptable and wrongful behaviour the U.S. government made a significant offer to the Russians”, Jean-Pierre said.
“With Russians through all available channels the U.S. government has continued to follow up on that offer and propose alternative potential ways forward, by the Russians despite a lack of good faith negotiation, I can also tell you that in the subsequent weeks”.
To Americans detained in Russia previously Price expressed concern about the irregular access.
Last month Price said that “To Brittney Griner but also to all of those Americans who are detained in Russia we continue to impart on the Russian government the necessity of consistency and regular consular access”.
In a hearing on Oct. 25 Griner’s meeting with U.S. officials came after a Russian court denied Griner’s appeal.
Griner appeared virtually and urged the court to reassess her sentence at her appeal hearing, saying that people found guilty of lesser crimes were given shorter sentences.
“In all of the stakes that were overlooked in the first court I beg that the court take and reassess my sentence here” Griner said, to be away from her family apologizing for her “mistake” and saying that it has been “traumatic”.
Griner’s attorney, Alexandr Boikov, Prior to the denial of her appeal, told a reporter “Her being afraid of not being released is mostly connected to the negotiations, which we are not aware of at all”.
Cherelle Griner, Griner’s wife, told “The View” in an interview that aired the denial of the WNBA star’s appeal was “just disheartening” and left her in “complete disbelief on Tuesday”.
“Every country has their own rules, but this is just absurd, I understand being in the field of law in every state”, Cherelle Griner said. “The crime and the punishment is disproportionate at its finest.
Less than B.G. there are people convicted of murder in Russia who have a sentence way , and it just makes absolutely no sense to me”.
she had no “intention” of breaking Russian law, in July Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges and that by saying that the vape cartridges containing hashish oil were in her luggage mistakenly.
On May 3, the State Department said that the U.S. government classified Griner’s case as “wrongfully detained,” even as the legal case against her plays out meaning the U.S. will more aggressively work to negotiate her release.
After Griner was detained Russia’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine began one week, and some officials have expressed concern that Americans jailed in Russia could be used as leverage in the ongoing war.