American basketball player Brittney Griner, imprisoned in Russia in what the United States calls wrongful detention, is being transferred to a penal colony, his lawyers said on Wednesday.
“We have no information about his exact current location or final destination,” his attorneys, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a statement.
Griner, a center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February after Russian authorities said they found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.
Griner, 32, was sentenced to nine years in prison in August; a Russian court upheld the sentence last month after his lawyers appealed.
US officials consider Griner to be illegally detained. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called the legal proceedings a deception.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the government was continuing to work for his release.
“Every minute that Brittney Griner has to endure unjustified detention in Russia is a minute too long,” Jean-Pierre said in a statement Wednesday.
Griner’s legal team said she was transferred Friday from a detention center in Iksha, north of Moscow.
Standard Russian procedure is that his attorneys and the U.S. Embassy must be notified when Griner arrives at his destination, the attorneys said — but that is done by mail, which can take two weeks.
More coverage of Brittney Griner’s detention
grinning pleaded guilty in July, but said she had hastily packed for a flight and unwittingly brought the canisters to Russia.
Griner treated wounds with medical cannabis, his lawyers pleaded At the trial. Cannabis, whether for medical or recreational purposes, is illegal in Russia. In the United States, cannabis is legal for medical purposes in most states.
“Our primary concern continues to be the health and well-being of BG,” Griner’s agent Lindsay Colas said in a Wednesday statement. “As we go through this very difficult phase of not knowing exactly where BG is or how she is doing, we ask for the support of the public to continue writing letters and expressing their love and care for her.”
Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and seven-time WNBA star. She was in Russia to play with a Russian women’s Premier League team, UMMC Yekaterinburg, which she has been doing since 2014.
She was arrested in February, about a week before Russia launched a unprovoked attack on Ukrainewhich further aggravated the problems between Russia and the United States
The United States offered to exchange Griner and another American imprisoned in Russia, Paul Whelan, for a convicted Russian arms dealer imprisoned in the United States, Victor Boutsources said.
Jean-Pierre said Wednesday that the United States “has made an important offer to the Russians to resolve the current unacceptable and unwarranted detentions of American citizens.”
“In the weeks that followed, despite the lack of good faith negotiation on the part of the Russians, the U.S. government continued to follow up on this offer and to propose other potential ways forward with the Russians by all means. channels available,” she said.