Brittney Griner Talks with U.S. Officials While Detained in Russia

The White House reported Thursday that U.S. embassy officials in Russia visited with imprisoned WNBA star Brittney Griner. After the State Department confirmed the meeting, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Air Force One, “We’re told she’s doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances.”

Brittney Griner got 9.5 years in prison because he brought into Russia less than a gramme of cannabis oil, which is against the law there. Since she was caught on February 17, she has been in jail. Griner’s request to change her sentence was turned down by a Russian court last week.

Jean-Pierre said on Thursday that Russia has continued to turn down a “significant offer” from the US to “solve the current unacceptable and wrong detention” of Griner and Paul Whelan, a former Marine who is also being held in Russia. Just last month, Jean-Pierre told reporters that Russia hadn’t replied to the “serious” offer to free Griner that the Biden administration made in July.

“Despite a lack of good-faith negotiation by the Russians, the U.S. government has continued to follow up on that offer and propose alternative potential ways forward with Russians through all available channels,” Jean-Pierre said on Thursday. “This continues to be a top priority.”

Jean-Pierre, on the other hand, didn’t give any details about any other offer made to Russia. In a tweet on Thursday, Ned Price, a spokesman for the State Department, said that the U.S. Embassy representatives who met with Griner “saw firsthand her tenacity and perseverance despite her present circumstances.”

“We continue to press for the immediate release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan and fair treatment for every detained American,” Price said. A family spokesman had nothing to say right away about the embassy officials’ visit. The U.S. government has said for a long time that Griner’s arrest was wrong.

After the Russian court rejected Griner’s appeal last week, her lawyers said they would talk to her about the possibility of more appeals and that they would use “all the available legal tools.” Once the appeals process is over, she will be sent to a prison colony.

Griner, a 6-foot-9 center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was detained in February when she tried to enter Russia at Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow, where she plays during the WNBA offseason. She turned 32 while she was in prison last month. On that day, her family and friends called for her to be freed and brought back to the United States safely.

In August, Russia said for the first time that talks were going on to free Griner and Whelan, but it did not confirm what the media said about a possible swap for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US.

In September, the families of Griner and Whelan met with President Biden at the White House to talk about the fact that their loved ones were in jail. At the time, John Kirby, a spokesman for the White House, told reporters that Biden “is not going to stop” trying to get Russia to free Griner and Whelan.

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

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