WNBA star Brittney Griner meets with U.S. Embassy officials in Russia

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Officials from the United States Embassy in Russia met with jailed WNBA star Brittney Griner, the White House said 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 after the State Department confirmed the meeting. .

Griner was sentenced to 9½ years in prison for bringing into the country less than a gram of cannabis oil, which is illegal in Russia. She has been in prison since her arrest on February 17.

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

Jean-Pierre said Thursday that Russia continues to reject a “significant offer” from the United States to end the “unacceptable and unjust current detention” of Griner and Paul Whelan, former US Marines jailed in Russia to resolve. Just last month, Jean-Pierre told reporters that Russia had yet to respond to the Biden administration’s “serious” July offer to free Griner.

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“Despite the lack of good faith negotiations by the Russians, the US government is continuing with that offer and proposing other ways forward with the Russians through every means available,” Jean-Pierre said Thursday. “This is always a priority.”

Jean-Pierre, however, did not offer any details on any other proposal made available to Russia.

In a tweet Thursday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said U.S. Embassy representatives who met with Griner “saw firsthand her tenacity and perseverance despite her current circumstances.”

“We continue to push for the immediate release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan and the equal treatment of all Americans in detention,” Price said.

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Spokespeople for the Griner family did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the embassy official’s visit.

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

Last week, after the Russian court dismissed her appeal, Griner’s attorneys said They said they would consult with their client about the possibility of a further appeal, and intended to use “all available legal tools”. Once the appeal process is over, he is ready to be transferred to a penal colony.

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

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In August, Russia admitted for the first time that negotiations were under way to release Griner and Whelan, but did not confirm media reports suggesting a possible swap for Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer who he is sentenced to 25 years in the United States.

The Griner and Whelan families met with President Biden at the White House in September to discuss their loved one’s incarceration. At the time, White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Biden “is not going to let up” in his efforts to get Russia to free Griner and Whelan.

“We want these two back home where they belong with their families,” Kirby said.

Maite Fernández Simon and Mary Ilyushina contributed to this report.

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