U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken slammed Russia for sending WNBA superstar Brittney Griner to a remote penal colony as her lawyers expressed uncertainty over her exact location.
Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison for carrying vape cartridges containing oils derived from cannabis through a Moscow airport. The White House condemned the move in an early Wednesday morning statement while Blinken and her lawyers also reacted.
“Following a sham trial and the unjust sentencing of Brittney Griner, Moscow is transferring her from a prison in Moscow to a remote penal colony,” Blinken said. “It is just another injustice on her ongoing unjust and wrongful detention.
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“As we work to secure Brittney Griner’s release, we expect Russian authorities to provide our Embassy officials with regular access to all U.S. citizens detained in Russia, including Brittney, as it is their obligation. Ensuring the health and welfare of U.S. citizen detainees in Russia is a priority, and we will continue to press for fair and transparent treatment for them all.
“Our hearts are with Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, as well as their family, friends, and supporters, who all continue to suffer from Russia’s decision to wrongfully detain U.S. citizens. We continue to work relentlessly to bring them home. I am focused on doing so, as are so many others in the Department. We will not relent until they are reunited with their loved ones.”
Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov added in a separate statement they were unsure of Griner’s exact location.
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“Brittney was transferred from the detention center in Iksha on the 4th November. She is now on her way to a penal colony,” the lawyers said. “We do not have any information on her exact current location or her final destination. In accordance with the standard Russian procedure, the attorneys, as well as the U.S. Embassy, should be notified upon her arrival at her destination. Notification is given via official mail and normally takes up to two weeks to be received.”
Griner’s agent, Lindsay Colas, expressed concern for Griner’s welfare.
“Our primary concern continues to be BG’s health and well-being,” she said. “As we work through this very difficult phase of not knowing exactly where BG is or how she is doing, we ask for the public’s support in continuing to write letters and express their love and care for her.
“Our team remains in close contact with the U.S. Government and Richardson Center, who are using all available resources to determine her whereabouts, ensure her safety, and bring her home. We are thankful for everyone’s support, and hope that as we near nine months of detention, that BG and all wrongfully detained Americans will be shown mercy and returned home to their families for the holidays.”
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Griner was visiting Russia to compete in the WBNA offseason in February when Russian authorities found cannabis oil in her luggage. She was promptly arrested for possessing the vape cartridges and later pleaded guilty and sentenced to nine years in prison.