Brittney Griner meets with US officials in Russia as White House works on her release

According to State Department spokesman Ned Price, WNBA star Brittney Griner, who faces nine years in a Russian prison, met with officials at the US Embassy in Russia on Thursday.

“You have seen firsthand her tenacity and perseverance despite her current circumstances. We continue to urge the immediate release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan and fair treatment for every American incarcerated,” Price said in a tweet announce the visit.

Thursday’s visit marks the first time US officials have been able to reach Griner directly since early August. They were last able to call her on her birthday on October 18th.

PHOTO: Basketball player Brittney Griner, who was arrested at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, drinks water in an accused's cage after the court's verdict in Khimki, outside Moscow August 4, 2022.

U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner, who was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, drinks water in a defendant’s cage after the court’s verdict in Khimki near Moscow August 4, 2022.

Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters, FILE

Griner, a 31-year-old Houston native who plays professional basketball for Phoenix Mercury, was arrested at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Khimki on February 17 as she returned to Russia to play in the WNBA’s offseason after being accused became aware of having vape cartridges containing hash oil, which is illegal in the country.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Thursday that the Biden administration has been told that Griner is “doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances.”

Jean-Pierre said that securing the freedom of Griner and Whelan, a US citizen and former Marine detained in Russia since 2019, remains “a top priority” for the White House.

“As we have said, the US government has made a significant offer to the Russians to resolve the current unacceptable and unlawful detentions of American citizens Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan,” Jean-Pierre said. “I can also tell you that in the weeks that followed, despite a lack of good faith negotiations by the Russians, the US government pursued this offer and, through all available channels, proposed alternative options to the Russians going forward.”

Price previously expressed concern about irregular access to Americans detained in Russia.

“We continue to convey to the Russian government the need for consistency and regular consular access to Brittney Griner, but also to all of the Americans detained in Russia,” Price said last month.

Griner’s meeting with US officials comes after a A Russian court dismissed Griner’s appeal in a hearing on October 25.

Griner practically appeared at her appeals hearing and asked the court to reevaluate her sentence, saying people found guilty of lesser crimes would receive shorter sentences.

“I am asking that the court take over any inserts that were overlooked in the first court and reevaluate my judgment here,” Griner said, apologizing for her “mistake” and saying it was “traumatic” from her family to be separated.

PHOTO: Brittney Griner stands in a defendant's cage during the reading of the court verdict in Khimki, Russia, August 4, 2022.

Brittney Griner stands in a defendant’s cage during the reading of the court verdict in Khimki, Russia August 4, 2022.

Evgenia Novozhenina/POOL via Reuters

Prior to the denial of her appeal, Griner’s attorney, Alexandr Boikov, told ABC News, “Your fear of not being released is mainly related to the trials, which we are completely unaware of.”

Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, said The View in an interview that aired on Tuesday The denial of the WNBA star’s appeal was “just disheartening” and left her “utterly in disbelief.”

“I understand as a legal professional that every state, every country has its own rules, but that’s just absurd,” said Cherelle Griner. “The crime and the punishment are disproportionate at best. … There are people convicted of murder in Russia who [have] a lot less than BG and it makes absolutely no sense to me.”

grinner pleaded guilty to drug offenses in Julyand said that the vape cartridges of hash oil were in her luggage by mistake and that she had no “intent” to break Russian law.

The U.S. government on May 3 classified Griner’s case as “wrongfully detained,” meaning the U.S. will work more aggressively to negotiate her release even if the lawsuit is against her, the State Department said.

of Russia Invasion of neighboring Ukraine began a week after Griner’s incarceration, and some officials have expressed concerns that Americans detained in Russia could be used as leverage in the ongoing war.

ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky, Tanya Stukalova, and Shannon Crawford contributed to this report.

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