“It’s just an unimaginable situation”

A Russian court, as expected, upheld WNBA star Brittney Griner’s nine-year sentence for drug possession, rejecting her appeal for a reduced sentence.

The decision by a three-judge panel sends Griner to serve his sentence in a Russian penal colony, unless US authorities are able to negotiate his release. The seven-time WNBA star has been detained since February after Russian authorities found vaping cartridges containing cannabis in his luggage at Moscow airport.

“Today’s decision, while unfortunate, was not unexpected and Brittney Griner remains wrongfully detained,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement.

But Engelbert, who described Griner’s situation as “unimaginable,” recently told Yahoo Finance that she believes the Biden administration is doing everything in its power to free the basketball star.

“Mentally, it’s very, very taxing the longer she’s out there,” Engelbert said in an interview during Yahoo Finance All-Market Summit Last week. (See video above.) “We spoke with the State Department, the President’s Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, and everyone in the administration. And they’re all Brittney all the time. They are trying to find every way to get her home safely and as quickly as possible. »

FILE – WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted out of a courtroom after a hearing in Khimki, just outside Moscow, Russia August 4, 2022. A court Russian began hearing American basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal on Tuesday against her nine-year prison sentence for drug possession. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

The decision adds pressure on US government officials to bring Griner home, but his journey out of Russian custody remains rocky. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre says President Biden ‘has no intention of meeting with President Putin’ at the upcoming G-20 summit, despite Biden’s previous comments on his openness to talks to discuss Griner’s release.

The White House responded to the Russian court’s decision earlier today, calling it “a new sham legal proceeding.”

“President Biden has been very clear that Brittney should be released immediately,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. statement. “Over the past few weeks, the Biden-Harris administration has continued to engage with Russia through every available channel and to do everything possible to bring Brittney home as well as to support and defend other Americans detained in Russia. including his wrongful fellow inmate Paul Whelan.”

“There’s no easy answer here,” Engelbert added. “The administration is being pressured by the court, to use a basketball analogy, to try to bring Brittney home and I think you need the other side to come up with a reasonable deal… From our discussions with the administration they try everything they can to get a deal done.

This story has been updated.

Seana Smith is an anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @SeanaNSmith.

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