President Joe Biden has called on Moscow to release Brittney Griner and said the United States will continue to secure the freedoms of the WNBA star, who was sentenced to nine years in prison by a Russian judge last week.
“It is unacceptable. I urge Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates.” Biden said in a statement Thursday.
Earlier in the day, Griner was found guilty of drug charges that resulted from his February arrest at a Moscow airport. The prosecutor in the case asked the court to sentence Griner to nine and a half years in prison. Her judge gave her a 9.
In response to his conviction, Biden said, “The fact that American citizen Britney Griner was sentenced to prison today is another reminder that the world already knew: Russia wrongfully detained Britney. I am doing,” he said.
Griner was arrested on Feb. 17 during the WNBA offseason while returning to the Russian women’s basketball team UMMC Yekaterinburg, where he has played since 2014. Airport officials found cannabis oil in Griner’s luggage. and led to drug charges.
Her detention has sparked a diplomatic standoff between the United States and Russia, with the two countries recently negotiating a potential prisoner swap. proposed the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, two U.S. citizens who usa.
Russia reportedly declined the offer.
Biden promised to release Griner and Whelan in a statement last week.
“My administration will continue to work vigorously and will pursue all means to bring Britney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible,” the president said.
Griner, the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury star, who appeared in court before the sentencing was handed down on Thursday, apologized for the incident in February. She previously admitted she was guilty, but she said she had no intention of breaking the law.
“I want to apologize to my teammates, the club, the fans and the (Yekaterinburg) city for my mistake and the embarrassment I caused them,” Griner said. As quoted by the Associated Press“I also want to apologize to my parents, my brother, my hometown Phoenix Mercury, the amazing women of the WNBA, and my amazing hometown spouse.”
Griner also spoke about his experience playing professionally in Russia.
“In the six and a half years I’ve spent here, I never thought the team, the city, the fans and my teammates would make such a great impression on me,” she said, according to the Associated Press. I vividly remember coming out and having these little girls in the stands waiting for me, and that’s why I keep coming back here.”
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken last week condemned Griner’s conviction.
“This spotlights our very important changes in the Russian legal system and how the Russian government uses unlawful detention to advance its own agenda by using individuals as political agents. It’s the one that shines the light,” Brinken said Friday. ESPN.
Blinken’s counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, hinted at discussions of a prisoner exchange with the United States and said Russia was ready to negotiate.
“We are ready to discuss this topic, but within the framework of the channel agreed by President Putin and President Biden,” Lavrov said. According to ESPN quote“If Americans decide to rely on public diplomacy again…that’s their job, and I would even say it’s their problem.”