US basketball star Brittney Griner is as well “as can be expected” in a Russian prison, the White House said Thursday after embassy officials were able to visit her.
“She’s doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters traveling with President Joe Biden.
Griner is serving a nine-year sentence handed down in August after she pleaded guilty to possession of a small quantity of cannabis oil in vape cartridges. She said the cannabis was to treat pain from her sporting injuries, but Russia does not allow medical marijuana use.
The harsh sentence and Griner’s failed appeal last month come against a backdrop of the worst relations between Moscow and Washington since the height of the Cold War, with Biden leading Western support for Ukraine’s resistance against a Russian invasion.
Griner, a two-time Olympic basketball gold medalist and Women's NBA champion, had been in Russia to play for the professional Yekaterinburg team during her off-season from the Phoenix Mercury Women’s National Basketball Association side.
Reports have suggested that Griner and another American jailed in Russia, Paul Whelan -- a former US marine arrested in December 2018 and accused of spying -- could be traded for Viktor Bout, a famed Russian arms trafficker serving 25 years in prison on a 2012 conviction.
This has not been confirmed but Jean-Pierre reiterated that the Biden administration has “made a significant offer to the Russians to resolve the current unacceptable and wrongful detention of American citizens.”
She cited a “lack of good faith negotiations by the Russians” but said the “US government has continued to follow up on that offer and propose alternative potential ways forward.”