U.S. officials met jailed U.S. basketball star Brittney Greener for the first time on Thursday since a Russian court rejected her appeal against drug possession charges, and the White House said she was doing “as well as expected.”
Mrs. Griner is reluctantly embroiled in a geopolitical battle between Russia and the West and has been grappling with a decision by a Russian appeals court to uphold a nine-year sentence in the penal colony for drug possession charges. Mrs. Greener, who recently turned 32 in Russian custody, pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges and apologized for what she said was an inadvertent offense.
“We were told that she was doing as well as expected under the circumstances,” White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre told reporters on Air Force One as she traveled with President Biden to New Mexico.
State Department spokesman Ned Price also noted that the meeting had taken place, tweeting that officials at the U.S. embassy in Russia had met with the woman. Griner also “saw firsthand her tenacity and perseverance in the current situation.”
@USEmbRU Officials visited Brittney Griner today. Despite her current situation, they witnessed her tenacity and perseverance firsthand. We continue to urge the immediate release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan and fair treatment for every American detained.
– Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) November 3, 2022
In October, a lady. Greener’s lawyer said she was increasingly concerned about her chances of being free in the prison swap and was struggling emotionally. Attorney Alexandr D. Boykov said in a recent interview that she was allowed to go out once a day in a penal colony outside Moscow. He said she walked around a small yard for an hour and spent the rest of the time in a small cell with two fellow inmates, sleeping on a special extra-long bed to accommodate her 6-foot-9 frame.
Ekaterina Kalugina, a journalist visiting Ms. Greener was in her cell in the spring, Ms. Greener said in a phone interview in October. Two of Griner’s inmates at the time, both English-speaking women, were also jailed on drug-related charges. she said, ma’am. Greener had been reading a translation of Dostoevsky’s novel “The Devil,” a political tragedy.
The Biden administration has been trying to negotiate a prisoner swap with Russia to bring the woman home. Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned on espionage charges, have not reported a breakthrough — the two countries have been extraordinarily tense over the war in Ukraine — under the leadership of her wife Cherelle Griner, a public from the athletes Stress sports intensified.
As part of the deal, the United States has offered to release jailed Russian arms dealer Victor Bout, U.S. officials said. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiring to kill Americans.
A week before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Ms. Greener, an All-Star center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury team and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was detained at an airport near Moscow after customs officials found two vaping pods containing cannabis oil in her luggage. She had been heading to Yekaterinburg, a city near the Ural Mountains, where she played for the women’s basketball team.
Mrs. In comments broadcast live from the White House, Jean-Pierre said embassy officials in Moscow were able to visit Britney Greene on Thursday.
“As we’ve said before, the U.S. government has made a major offer to the Russians to address the current unacceptable and wrongful detention of U.S. citizens Britney Greenner and Paul Whelan,” she said.
She added: “I can also tell you that, in the coming weeks, despite the lack of good faith negotiations by the Russians, the US government continues to follow up on this proposal and present alternative potential ways forward with the Russians through all available channels. .
“It’s still a top priority,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said.