Here’s the Latest Details on Brittney Griner’s Imprisonment

Brittney Griner behind bars

Russia is prepared to discuss a potential prisoner swap with the U.S.

WNBA star Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia since mid-February, when officials found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage at the Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow. She’s been held on drugs charges ever since, and after pleading guilty, was finally sentenced to nine years in jail on August 4.

We have the latest on Griner’s welfare — and her prospects for release — below. (For more on what led Griner to Russia in the first place, check out our explainer, here.)

Russia prepared to discuss a prisoner swap

Russia is prepared to discuss a potential prisoner swap with the U.S. following Brittney Griner’s drug smuggling conviction.

“On the matter of persons who are convicted in Russia and in the United States … there is a specified channel that has been agreed upon by [Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden], and no matter what anyone says publicly, this channel will remain in effect,” Lavrov reportedly said during a press conference in Cambodia on August 5.

“We are ready to discuss this topic, but within the framework of the channel that has been agreed by the presidents,” he added.

Griner testifies that she made an “honest mistake”

Griner pleaded guilty during her trial to carrying less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage through Moscow airport on February 17. She testified that she’d been aware of Russia’s drug laws, but had made an “honest mistake,” while “stress packing.”

While reading her sentence on August 4, the judge said she was accounting for the considerable time Griner has already spent in detention.

According to the BBC, Griner’s defence lawyer Maria Blagovolina said the WNBA star was “very upset, very stressed”.

“She can hardly talk. It’s a difficult time for her. When we saw Brittney on Tuesday, we told her, ‘See you on Thursday’. She said, ‘See you on doomsday’. So it looks like she was right.”

President Biden calls Griner’s conviction “unacceptable”

President Biden released a statement after Griner’s sentence, calling it “unacceptable.”

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” his statement read. “It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.  My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”

Blinken working to secure Griner’s release

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov apparently discussed a U.S. proposal to secure Brittney Griner’s release, as well as that of American Paul Whelan, who is also currently in detention in Russia.

During the phone call, Blinken reportedly “pressed the Kremlin to accept” the offer during a “frank and direct conversation.”

“I urged Foreign Minister Lavrov to move forward with that proposal,” Blinken said. “I’m not going to characterize his response and I’m not going to give you an assessment of whether I think things are any more or less likely, but I think it was important he hear directly from me on that.”