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The United States Embassy confirmed on Thursday that they have met with Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner nearly nine months since she was first arrested for smuggling drugs into Russia.
Griner, 32, was arrested at Sheremetyevo International Airport, located near Moscow, on Feb. 17 for carrying a vape cartridge containing THC oils.
In their efforts to connect with and retrieve the eight-time WNBA All-Star, the Biden administration has made “significant” offers to the Russian government, noted White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday.
At one point, the administration offered up a deadly Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in a prisoner swap for Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan (who’s been under Russian detainment since Dec. 2018).
“We are told she’s doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances,” Jean-Pierre added.
Russia’s Rigid Stance On Griner
A Russian court rejected Griner’s appeal with regard to her 9.5-year prison sentence for smuggling drugs into the country. Griner pleaded guilty to the drug charge on July 7.
“We continue to press for the immediate release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan and fair treatment for every detained American,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price commented in the last update.
Despite the Embassy’s talks with Griner, no deal on her release between the U.S. and Russia appears imminent.
The NBA, WNBA and general sports media have made strong pleas for the U.S. government to negotiate Griner’s release with significant pressure as the Mercury center faces a grim prison sentence in a hostile Russian penal colony.
No Deal In Sight
Griner’s wife, Cherelle, appeared on The View this week to discuss Russia’s unyielding negotiations.
“Honestly, it was just disheartening,” Cherelle Griner said. “It was a complete disbelief for me. I understand being in the field of law that every state, every country has their own rules, but this is just absurd.
“The crime and the punishment is disproportionate at its finest. There are people convicted of murder in Russia who [have] a sentence way less than B.G., and it just makes absolutely no sense to me.”
In mid-October, Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov spoke on Vladimir Putin’s thoughts on the Griner arrest. He stated that it was not a major priority for him or the Russian government.
Uskhakov did not sound impressed by U.S. President Joe Biden’s outreach regarding Griner. He went as far as calling his desperate plea a strategic move for the upcoming midterm elections.
“In this tense situation, I think that he is thinking first and foremost about the upcoming midterm elections,” the Russian government official said.
“So [Biden] keeps emphasizing the need to bring back home the basketball player who was detained for drug smuggling. However, it’s not the main issue that we are concerned about.”