Brittney Griner’s release is not a priority for Russia, a Kremlin official says

Yury Ushakov, Advisor to the Russian President Wladimir Putinsaid Sunday that the release of WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner, who is being held in a Russian jail for bringing a small amount of cannabis oil into the country, is not a priority for Russia.

president Joe Biden has been tries to bring Griner home and instructed his government to “contact the Russian government through all available channels and make every effort to bring them about [Griner and Paul Whelan] home.” Whelan is an American Marine who is serve 16 years for spying in a Russian prison.

Ushakov said, however, that Biden would not announce those attempts until the upcoming midterm elections in November.

“In this tense situation, I think his primary concern is the upcoming midterm elections, so he keeps emphasizing the need to bring home the basketball player who was jailed for drug smuggling. However, that is not the main issue that we are concerned about,” Ushakov said in an interview with Rossiya-1, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.

Brittney Griner's release not a priority for Russia
Above, WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner, who was arrested at a Moscow airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, awaits a ruling during an August 4 hearing that Griner’s release is not a priority for Russia.
Photo by EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA / POOL / AFP

The White House said earlier this month that had been the case no progress in negotiations with Russian officials to release Griner, who was arrested at a Moscow airport in February.

In August, the athlete was sentenced by a Russian court to nine years in prison and a fine of around US$16,000 after being found guilty of criminally involved in drug smuggling. Since then she has been trying to appeal her sentence.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean Pierre said during a news conference this month that the 31-year-old basketball player was “wrongly arrested by Russian authorities.”

The spokesman also said at the time that Russia should consider the offer This was announced by the Biden administration in July to secure Griner’s release. The White House proposed to release Viktor Bouta Russian arms dealer also known as the “Dealer of Death” in exchange for Whelan and Griner.

Meanwhile, Biden said Tuesday that he does not intend to speak to Putin during the upcoming G20 summit unless it is about Griner’s release.

“Look, I have no intention of meeting with him,” Biden said. “But if he came to me at the G20, for example, and said, ‘I want to talk about the release of Griner,’ I would meet with him.”

Griner’s Prison Conditions

The Phoenix Mercury star is currently serving her sentence at a Russian penal colony, which is known to include barracks surrounded by barbed wire fences. Penal colonies have long existed in Russia, but they have evolved from the often-deadly forced labor camps of former Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin to today’s model, in which prisoners perform less-than-hard labor, such as carving. B. sewing military uniforms instead of mining.

However, the current prison conditions have severely affected the basketball player’s well-being, according to one of her Russian lawyers. The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Griner lives in a small cell with two other people who speak English and are also accused of drugs. She also slept on a small bed that couldn’t accommodate her six-foot-tall frame until April, when Russian journalist Ekaterina Kalugina, who reportedly visited her in prison, told a Russian prison supervisory commission that she needed a larger bed.

Kalugina told that Times that the WNBA player, along with other women in prison, is only allowed to shower twice a week. Griner also frequently suffers from aches and pains, the reporter learned during the visit.

Meanwhile, attorney Alexandr Boykov said the temperature at the penal colony where Griner is being held changes dramatically depending on the weather. The attorney added that Griner is only allowed to be outside for an hour a day, which she uses to do laps in a “small yard.”

news week has reached out to the White House for comment.

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