‘Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney’: Biden demands Moscow immediately release WBNA star so she can ‘be with her life, loved ones and teammates’ and says he will work tirelessly to get her and Paul Whelan home
- Biden slammed Russia for sentencing Brittney Griner to nine years in prison
- ‘Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,’ Biden said in a statement
- He called on Moscow to release the WNBA basketball star
- Said his administration is working to release her and Paul Whelan
President Joe Biden on Thursday slammed Russia for sentencing Brittney Griner to nine years in prison, saying the American basketball star is being wrongfully detained.
‘Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,’ Biden said in a statement released shortly after her sentence was announced.
He called on Moscow to release her and said his administration would continue to work for her freedom and that of former Marine Paul Whelan’s.
‘It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible,’ Biden said.
The president has been criticized by Griner’s wife, Cherelle, for not doing enough for Brittney.
Griner, 31, on Thursday was found guilty of drug smuggling by a judge who rejected her claim she accidentally brought the drugs in. Biden called Cherelle Griner in July to reassure of his committment.
President Joe Biden slammed Russia for sentencing Brittney Griner to nine years in prison; above Brittney Griner arrives in court in Khimki, on the outskirts of Moscow
Brittney Griner in court in Khimki, near Moscow; she apologized before her setencing
Prosecutors had asked that she be jailed for nine-and-a-half years, six months less than the maximum of 10 years in prison.
Before the verdict was announced, Griner apologized to her family, teammates and the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, where she plays in the WNBA offseason,’for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them.’
‘I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws.
‘I made an honest mistake and I hope that your ruling doesn’t end my life.’
Griner is a two-time U.S. Olympic champion and a eight-time all-star with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.
She was arrested at the airport in Moscow in February and has been incarcerated ever since, despite failed attempts from the White House to negotiate her release.
Police said they found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage upon landing at Moscow´s Sheremetyevo Airport.
In July she pleaded guilty, but she insisted that she had no criminal intent and that the canisters ended up in her luggage because she was packing hastily.
‘I still don’t understand how they ended up in my bag,’ she said.
A conviction is usually a prerequisite to arranging a prisoner exchange.
Biden’s adminstration has been working on a high-stakes prisoner swap to free Griner and Whelan, who was arrested in Russia in 2018 and accused of being a spy. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison that includes time in a labor camp.
On July 27, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington has offered a deal to bring the two home.
President Biden: ‘Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney’
Russian national Viktor Bout was convicted in 2011 of conspiracy to kill American citizens. He is currently serving 25 years in prison
Biden said his admnistration would work to release Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan (above), a former U.S. marine who was arrested for alleged spying
The U.S. has offered to trade convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for the two Americans.
Bout, who has been dubbed the Merchant of Death and was the inspiration for Nicolas Cage’s character in the 2005 film Lord of War, is behind bars on arms trafficking charges.
The former Soviet officer, 55, illegally sold 700 surface-to-air missiles, thousands of guns, high-tech helicopters and planes fitted with grenade launches and counted the Taliban, Muammar Gaddafi and Liberian dictator Charles Taylor as his clients.
He was nabbed by authorities in Thailand in 2011 after a sting operation, but his arrest and conviction has long been aggravated Moscow.
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