US officials met jailed American basketball star Brittney Griner for the first time on Thursday since a Russian court rejected her appeal for drug possession and the White House said she was do “as well as can be expected.”
Griner has been unwittingly trapped in a geopolitical war between Russia and the West, and is grappling with a decision by a Russian appeals court to uphold a nine-year sentence in a penal colony for possession of drug. Ms Griner, who recently turned 32 in custody in Russia, pleaded guilty to drug smuggling and apologized for what she called an inadvertent offense.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said: “We say she is doing as well as can be expected under these circumstances. told reporters on Air Force One when she accompanied President Biden to New Mexico.
Ned Price, a State Department spokesman, also noted that the meeting had taken place, posting on Twitter that officials from the US Embassy had seen Ms Griner and “witnessed the perseverance and her persistence despite her current circumstances.”
In October, one of Ms Griner’s lawyers said she was increasingly worried about her chances of being freed in the prisoner swap and struggling mentally. Griner is allowed out once a day, attorney Alexandr D. Boykov said in a recent interview. The lawyer, Alexandr D. Boykov, said she walked for an hour in the courtyard at a crime colony outside Moscow, and spent the rest of the time in a small cell with two inmates, sitting and sleeping on it. a special long bed to accommodate. her 6 feet 9 tall frame.
The Biden administration is trying to negotiate a prisoner swap with Russia to bring home Griner and Paul Whelan, an American detained on espionage charges. These efforts come at a time of unusual tension between the two countries over the war in Ukraine.
US officials say the US has offered to free Russian arms dealer in custody Victor Bout as part of the agreement. He is serving a 25-year prison sentence for plotting to kill an American.
Days before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Ms. Griner, an All-Star with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was detained at an airport near Moscow after officials Customs officers found two vape boxes containing hash oil inside her. Package. She was on her way to Yekaterinburg, a city near the Ural Mountains, where she played for a women’s basketball team.
Jean-Pierre said, in comments broadcast live by the White House, that officials from the US Embassy in Moscow were able to visit Brittney Griner on Thursday.
“As we have said before, the US government has made an important offer to the Russians to resolve the current unacceptable detentions of US citizens Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan and Paul Whelan. .
She added, “I can also tell you that in the weeks that followed, despite the Russians’ lack of willingness to negotiate, the U.S. government continued to monitor that offer and suggest potential ways to do so. interchangeability with the Russians through all existing channels. “
“This continues to be a top priority,” said Jean-Pierre.