WNBA star Brittney Griner meets with US Embassy officials in Russia


Officials from the U.S. Embassy in Russia have met with imprisoned WNBA star Brittney Griner, the White House announced Thursday.

“We’re told she’s doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One afterward. that the State Department confirmed the meeting.

Griner was sentenced to 9.5 years in prison for bringing into the country less than one gram of cannabis oil, which is illegal in Russia. She has been imprisoned since her arrest on February 17.

Last week, a Russian court rejected Griner’s appeal to her prison sentence.

Jean-Pierre said on Thursday that Russia continued to refuse a “significant offer” from the United States to “resolve the current unacceptable and abusive detention” of Griner and Paul Whelan, a former US marine also imprisoned in Russia. Just last month, Jean-Pierre told reporters that Russia had yet to respond to the “serious” offer made by the Biden administration in July to free Griner.

“Despite a lack of good faith negotiation on the part of the Russians, the U.S. government has continued to pursue this offer and offer other potential ways to move forward with the Russians through all available channels,” Jean said. – Peter Thursday. “It remains a top priority.”

Jean-Pierre, however, did not provide any details on a possible alternative proposal offered to Russia.

In a tweet Thursday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said U.S. Embassy officials who met with Griner “saw firsthand his tenacity and perseverance despite his current situation. “.

“We continue to press for the immediate release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan and fair treatment for every American detained,” Price said.

Spokespersons for Griner’s family did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the visit by embassy officials.

The US government has long characterized Griner’s arrest as “wrongful detention”.

Last week, after the Russian court rejected his appeal, Griner’s lawyers said they would discuss with their client the possibility of further appeals and that they intended to use “every legal tool available”. After the appeal process is completed, she should be transferred to a penal colony.

Griner, a 6ft 9in center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested in February as she attempted to enter Russia at Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow, where she plays during the WNBA offseason. She turned 32 last month while in prison, an occasion for her family and friends to call for her release and safe return to the United States.

In August, Russia recognized for the first time negotiations were underway to free Griner and Whelan, but he did not confirm media reports indicating a potential trade for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence in the United States. United.

Griner and Whelan families meet with President Biden at the White House in September to discuss the imprisonment of their loved ones. At the time, White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Biden “is not going to let up” on his efforts to get Russia to free Griner and Whelan.

“We want these two people to go home to their families,” Kirby said.

Maite Fernández Simon and Mary Ilyushina contributed to this report.

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