Biden hopes Putin will negotiate release of WNBA star Greiner

President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he hopes Russian President Vladimir Putin will be more willing to negotiate the release of WNBA star Britney Grenier. Now that the US midterm elections are over.

“My hope is that now that the election is over, Mr. Putin can discuss it with us and be willing to talk more seriously about the prisoner exchange,” Biden told reporters at a news conference.

He spoke hours after Greiner’s lawyers revealed that she was sent to a penal colony to serve her sentence for drug possession.

US officials have been trying for months to negotiate the release of Grenier and another American imprisoned in Russia, Paul Whelan. But there were no public signs of progress.

The diplomatic decision has become a new urgency after a Russian court rejected an appeal against her nine-year prison sentence Last month. The eight-time All-Star position with WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and two-time Olympic gold medalist was condemned on August 4. After police said they found e-cigarette packages containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow.

Her arrest came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, just days before Russia sent its forces into UkraineThe politically charged case could lead to a risky prisoner exchange between Washington and Moscow.

“Every minute that Britney Greiner has to endure unlawful detention in Russia is very delicate,” White House Press Secretary Karen-Jean-Pierre said. “As we have said before, the US government has made an important offer to the Russians to resolve the current unacceptable and unlawful detentions of US citizens.”

Griner’s legal team said she left a detention center outside Moscow on November 4 for a criminal colony – as prisons are known in Russia. This move was expected because it lost its appeal.

These transfers can take days or even weeks, during which time lawyers and loved ones usually do not contact the prisoner. Even after its arrival, the Griner can be difficult to reach since there are many penal colonies in remote parts of Russia.

Her lawyers said Wednesday they don’t know exactly where she is or where she will end up — but they expect to be notified when she reaches her final destination.

In a statement stressing work underway to secure Grener’s release, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken insisted that Russian authorities grant the embassy regular access to Grenner, as required of it. Officials of the US Embassy in Moscow visited Grenier last week.

A senior State Department official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said the Russians had not notified US diplomats of Grener’s transfer in advance and had not yet responded to US embassy inquiries about either. The current place or final destination.

In many penal colonies, prisoners worked for little pay, and dissidents and other states denounced the conditions of the detainees. Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on hunger strike To protest his treatment, including officials’ refusal to give him proper medications and to allow his doctor to visit him behind bars.

He also protested the hourly checks by a guard at night, saying they amount to sleep deprivation torture.

Greiner, 32, who was detained while returning to play for a Russian team during the WNBA season, admitted she had the packages in her bags. But she testified that she had inadvertently pushed them in a hurry and that she had no criminal intent. Her defense team provided written affidavits that she had been prescribed cannabis to treat pain.

The Associated Press and other news organizations have reported that Washington has offered to exchange Greiner and Whelan — an American who is serving a 16-year prison sentence in Russia for espionage — for Victor Bout.. Bot is a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States and once earned the nickname “Dealer of Death”.

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Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Eric Tucker contributed to this report from Washington.

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Follow AP’s coverage of Brittney Griner at: https://apnews.com/hub/brittney-griner

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