Home U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner waits for freedom in Russia, appeals hearing scheduled

U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner waits for freedom in Russia, appeals hearing scheduled

Rebecca Barnabi
Brittney Griner
(© Keeton Gale – Shutterstock)

A woman’s basketball star from the United States is “not a priority” for Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

According to London News Today, an aide to Putin said releasing two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner, 31, from a nine-year sentence in a Russian prison is not on the list of priorities.

Griner was traveling through a Moscow airport in mid-February when vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage. NPR reported that Griner, a center for WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury since 2013, had an American doctor’s recommendation for the medication. Griner was pulled aside by luggage inspectors and a language interpreter translated part of what was said as she was questioned by officials and instructed to sign documents.

Griner pled guilty to the drug charge and was sentenced on Aug. 4 to nine years in a Russian prison.

During off-seasons from the Phoenix Mercury, Griner played for the UMMC Ekaterinburg in Yekaterinburg, the third largest city in Russia.

At her sentencing, The Washington Post reported that Griner said she “made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here.”

U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the sentence, and the White House attempted to negotiate a prisoner swap.

Putin advisor Yuri Ushakov served as Russia’s ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2008, according to London News Today. He said Sunday: In this tense situation, I think [U.S. President Joe Biden is] thinking about the future first and foremost. As such, it continues to emphasize the need to bring home basketball players who have been detained for drug smuggling. But that’s not the main issue we’re concerned with.”

Griner’s arrest was days before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

She will spend her 32nd birthday tomorrow in a Russian prison.

An appeals hearing is scheduled Oct. 25 in Russia.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.