U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner was transferred from a detention center outside the Russian capital to a penal colony, reports The Guardian. The two-time Olympic gold medalist was arrested in February, a week before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, at a Moscow airport with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is banned in Russia. She was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony on charges of possessing and smuggling drugs. The White House called her detention “wrongful”. On on Wednesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre issued a statement saying, “Every minute that Brittney Griner must endure wrongful detention in Russia is a minute too long,” and added that the Biden administration “continues to work tirelessly to secure her release”.
Griner pleaded guilty but said she had made an “honest mistake” and had not meant to break the law. She was visited by U.S. officials this month after her appeal was denied. Jean-Pierre said President Biden has directed his administration to “prevail on her Russian captors to improve her treatment and the conditions she may be forced to endure in a penal colony”. The Biden administration in July proposed a deal for a prisoner swap with Russia to secure her release, as well as that of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, but Moscow has yet to respond positively. “Despite a lack of good faith negotiation by the Russians, the U.S. government has continued to follow up on that offer and propose alternative potential ways forward with the Russians through all available channels,” Jean-Pierre said.