Picture Supply: Getty / Mike Mattina
A day after a Russian court docket sentenced American Brittney Griner to 9 years in jail, Russian officials signaled that they’re ready to discuss a prisoner swap with the US.
Brittney Griner, an American basketball participant for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, has been discovered responsible of drug smuggling with prison intent by a Russian court docket, according to Reuters.
“I by no means meant to harm anyone, I by no means meant to place in jeopardy the Russian inhabitants, I by no means meant to interrupt any legal guidelines right here,” Griner mentioned in her last assertion, as reported by CNN. “I made an sincere mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it does not finish my life right here,” she mentioned. Griner emphasised once more that she did not intend to interrupt Russian legal guidelines, saying, “I didn’t conspire or plan to commit this crime,” per Reuters.
In line with The Guardian, Russian international minister Sergei Lavrov mentioned throughout a press convention in Cambodia that “we’re prepared to debate the problem [of a swap].” Lavrov additionally acknowledged that Russia wouldn’t reply to “megaphone diplomacy,” and as an alternative emphasised personal channels of communication between the 2 international locations. “If that is one other case of the People resorting to public diplomacy and loud statements on their pending steps, it is their enterprise or I’d even say their downside, as a result of the People usually fail to honour the settlement on doing calm, skilled work,” he mentioned.
There may be some hope that Russia and the US can efficiently negotiate the discharge of Griner. Final week, President Biden supplied convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout (at the moment serving out a 25-year sentence in the US) in exchange for Griner, as well as American Paul Whelan, who’s additionally imprisoned in Russia. It is unclear whether or not or not they’ll settle for this supply.
This is the whole lot we all know in regards to the state of affairs, how Griner ended up in Russia, and when she’s anticipated to be launched.
Why Was Brittney Griner in Russia?
Griner flew to Russia to play on the UMMC Ekaterinburg staff. The 31-year-old has been a member of the Russian basketball team for a number of WNBA off-seasons. However this explicit journey got here at a tense time; Griner was detained shortly earlier than Russia invaded Ukraine. The US State Division had issued a “Do Not Travel” advisory weeks earlier, citing the continued pressure.
The 2-time Olympian may need chosen to play abroad throughout this offseason for a lot of completely different causes — together with to earn some extra cash. WNBA gamers sometimes earn between $60,000 and $229,000, whereas NBA gamers can earn upwards of $40 million. In line with an Associated Press report, “half of the WNBA’s 144 gamers” went abroad in the course of the 2022 offseason, with high-ranking athletes incomes greater than $1 million. WNBA athlete Liz Cambage mentioned on NBA Today that she is ready to earn “5 to eight occasions extra” by taking part in abroad.
Why Was Brittney Griner Detained?
In her first court docket look, Griner was accused of transporting a “vital quantity” of hashish oil, per The Washington Post. The fees allege that, earlier than touring to Russia in February, Griner “purchased two cartridges for private use, which contained 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil,” as reported by Russian state information company TASS. In her July 7 listening to, Griner informed the court docket that she didn’t purposely break the legislation. “I might prefer to plead responsible, your honor. However there was no intent. I did not need to break the legislation,” Griner mentioned, per Reuters. Griner’s legal professionals additionally informed Russian judges in one other listening to that the hashish was prescribed for medicinal use for “extreme continual ache,” according to CNN.
“We proceed to insist that, by indiscretion, in a rush, she packed her suitcase and didn’t take note of the truth that substances allowed to be used in the US ended up on this suitcase and arrived within the Russian Federation,” her lawyer Alexander Boykov acknowledged, per CNN.
On June 27, Griner opened up about her preliminary detainment on the airport. She testified that she was compelled to signal paperwork “with out totally understanding what they included,” according to CNN. Griner mentioned that she was not learn her rights and that she tried to make use of Google translate on her cellphone to grasp the paperwork, however “barely knew what was in them,” per CNN. After the primary spherical of paperwork, Griner mentioned she was later taken to a different room, her cellphone was taken away, and he or she was compelled to signal much more complicated paperwork with no clarification. “No lawyer was current, Griner mentioned,” in response to CNN.
When Will Brittney Griner Be Launched?
Regardless that Griner has obtained a responsible verdict and sentencing, a swap nonetheless may happen. In 2020, as an illustration, a Russian court docket equally sentenced former US Marine Trevor R. Reed to 9 years in jail, however he was later exchanged in a jail swap between Russia and the US, The New York Times stories. However as of now, Griner’s launch date remains to be to be decided.
Her detention has been prolonged a number of occasions since she was first detained in Russia, which has sparked outrage amongst her household, fellow players, followers, human-rights organizations, and extra. The #FreeBrittneyGriner motion has emerged on social media. And on June 22, a number of teams, together with the Nationwide Group for Ladies, the Human Rights Marketing campaign, the Nationwide City League, and the Nationwide Motion Community, banded collectively to ship a letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, per The New York Times. The letter urged the administration “to make a deal to get Brittney again house to America instantly and safely.”
Griner additionally beforehand pleaded to the president straight in a handwritten letter. She expressed that she was “terrified I may be right here endlessly,” per CNN. “I understand you might be coping with a lot, however please do not forget about me and the opposite American detainees . . . ,” Griner went on to say. “Please do all you possibly can to carry us house.”
There have already been talks of a attainable prisoner swap that will permit for Griner’s launch. On Wednesday, July 27, CNN reported that the Biden administration supplied to launch Viktor Bout, an imprisoned Russian arms vendor, in alternate for Griner and one other American detainee, Paul Whelan. “We communicated a considerable supply that we imagine may very well be profitable based mostly on a historical past of conversations with the Russians,” a senior official informed CNN. “We communicated that quite a few weeks in the past, in June.” The administration official that spoke to CNN didn’t touch upon the specifics of the “substantial supply.”
Griner’s detention comes amid US sanctions against Russia following their invasion of Ukraine. Firstly of Griner’s detention, Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro deemed Russia’s resolution to detain the athlete to be a political transfer, tweeting, “I am intently monitoring stories of Texan @brittneygriner‘s detention in Russia. This follows a sample of Russia wrongly detaining & imprisoning US residents . . . US residents will not be political pawns.”
The basketball star has reportedly been sharing a cell with two inmates who “had no earlier convictions and are charged with drug-related articles,” in response to a March assertion from Ekaterina Kalugina, a member of Public Monitoring Fee, per NBC.
What Is Hash Oil?
Hash oil is extracted from hashish, an unlawful substance in Russia. Below Article 228 of the Russian Criminal Code, somebody who commits an offense associated to the “unlawful acquisition, storage, transportation, making or processing of narcotic medicine, psychotropic substances or analogues thereof” may resist 10 years in jail.
— Further reporting by Alexis Jones, Lauren Mazzo, and Sara Youngblood Gregory