WNBA star Brittney Griner meets with U.S. Embassy officials in Russia


Officials from the U.S. Embassy in Russia have met with jailed WNBA star Brittney Griner, the White House said Thursday.

“We’re told she’s doing well and that’s to be expected under the circumstances,” White House press secretary Carine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One after the State Department confirmed the meeting.

Griner has been sentenced to 9½ years in prison for bringing less than a gram of illegal cannabis oil into Russia. She has been in jail since her February 17 arrest.

Last week, a Russian court rejected Griner’s appeal against his prison sentence.

Jean-Pierre said on Thursday that Russia continued to refuse a “significant offer” from the United States to “resolve the current unacceptable and wrongful detention” of Griner and Paul Whalen, former US Marines imprisoned in Russia. Just last month, Jean-Pierre told reporters that Russia had not yet responded to a “serious” proposal the Biden administration made in July to release Griner.

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“Despite the lack of good faith negotiations by the Russians, the US government continues to pursue that offer and proposes alternative possible ways forward with the Russians through all available channels,” Jean-Pierre said Thursday. “This continues to be a top priority.”

Jean-Pierre, however, gave no details on any alternative proposal offered to Russia.

In a tweet Thursday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said US Embassy representatives who met with Griner “saw firsthand her tenacity and perseverance despite her current circumstances.”

“We continue to push for the immediate release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whalen and fair treatment for every detained American,” Price said.

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A spokesman for Griner’s family did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the embassy officials’ visit.

The US government has long characterized Griner’s arrest as “false detention”.

Last week, after a Russian court dismissed her appeal, Griner’s attorney Said he would confer with his client about the possibility of further appeals, and that he intended to use “all available legal tools.” Once the appeal process is over, she will be transferred to a penal colony.

Griner, a 6-foot-9 center and two-time Olympic gold medalist with the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA, was detained in February while trying to enter Russia at Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow, where she plays during the WNBA offseason. She turned 32 last month while in prison, an occasion when family and friends called for her release and safe return to the United States.

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In August, Russia acknowledged for the first time that talks were underway to release Griner and Whalen, but did not confirm media reports indicating a possible swap for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence in the United States.

The families of Griner and Whalen discussed their relative’s incarceration with President Biden at the White House in September. At the time, White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Biden was “not going to give up” on Russia in its efforts to free Griner and Whalen.

“We want these two individuals back home where they are with their families,” Kirby said.

Mite Fernandez Simon and Marie Ilyushina contributed to this report.


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