WNBA star Brittney Griner meets with U.S. Embassy officials in Russia


US Embassy officials in Russia have met with jailed WNBA star Brittney Greener, the White House said Thursday.

“We’re told he’s doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances,” White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One after the State Department confirmed the meeting.

Greener was sentenced to 9.5 years in prison for bringing less than a gram of hemp oil into Russia, which is illegal in Russia. He has been in jail since his February 17 arrest.

Last week, a Russian court rejected Griner’s appeal against his prison sentence.

Jean-Pierre said Thursday that Russia continues to reject a “significant offer” from the United States to resolve the “current unacceptable and illegal detention” of Greener and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine also imprisoned in Russia. Just last month, Jean-Pierre told reporters that Russia had yet to respond to a “serious” offer by the Biden administration to release Greener in July.

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“Despite the lack of good-faith negotiations on the part of the Russians, the US government has continued to pursue that proposal and to offer alternative ways forward with the Russians through all available avenues,” Jean-Pierre said Thursday. “This remains a priority.”

Jean-Pierre, however, did not provide details on the alternative proposal to Russia.

In a tweet Thursday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said US embassy officials who met with Greener “saw firsthand his tenacity and determination despite the circumstances.”

“We continue to press for the immediate release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan and for the fair treatment of every American detained,” Price said.

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Spokesmen for the Green family did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the visit by embassy officials.

The US government has long described Greener’s arrest as a “wrongful arrest”.

Last week, after a Russian court rejected his appeal, Greener’s lawyers said they would speak with their client about the possibility of further appeals and that they intended to use “all available legal tools.” After the appeal process is completed, he will be transferred to a penal colony.

Griner, a 6-foot-9 center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested in February while trying to enter Russia at Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow, where she plays in the WNBA’s offseason. He turned 32 last month while in prison, an occasion when family and friends called for his release and safe return to the United States.

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In August, Russia acknowledged for the first time that it was in talks to release Greener and Whelan, but did not confirm media reports of a possible swap for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence in the United States.

The Greener and Whelan families met with President Biden at the White House in September to discuss their relatives’ imprisonment. At the time, White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Biden was “not going to relax” his efforts to get Russia to release Greener and Whelan.

“We want these two individuals back where they belong with their families,” Kirby said.

Maite Fernandez Simon and Mary Ilyushyna contributed to this report.


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