WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was convicted in August of smuggling drugs into Russia and sentenced to nine years in prison, is being moved to a Russian penal colony, her attorneys said Wednesday.
“We do not have any information on her exact current location or her final destination,” Griner’s attorneys, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a statement to CNN.
According to CNN, inmates at Russian penal colonies are usually forced to perform manual labor, and they live in squalid conditions with poor medical care.
“In accordance with the standard Russian procedure, the attorneys, as well as the US Embassy, should be notified upon her arrival at her destination. Notification is given via official mail and normally takes up to two weeks to be received,” the attorneys said.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement Wednesday that the Biden administration was trying to find ways to end what it called Griner’s “continued wrongful detention.”
“As the Administration continues to work tirelessly to secure her release, the President has directed the Administration to prevail on her Russian captors to improve her treatment and the conditions she may be forced to endure in a penal colony,” Jean-Pierre said.
“As we have said before, the U.S. Government made a significant offer to the Russians to resolve the current unacceptable and wrongful detentions of American citizens,” she added. “In the subsequent weeks, 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.”
At the end of October, Boykov and Blagovolina appealed Griner’s case but said they did “not expect any miracles to happen,” the New York Times reported.
The Russian judges did not even reduce Griner’s sentence.
The basketball star is expected to face harsh conditions in the penal colony.
NBC News reported she will “enter a system of isolation, grueling labor and psychological torment” in “the successor to the infamous Russian gulag.”
“Conditions in prisons and detention centers varied but were often harsh and life threatening,” the report said. “Overcrowding, abuse by guards and inmates, limited access to health care, food shortages, and inadequate sanitation were common in prisons, penal colonies, and other detention facilities.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Wednesday that Griner’s removal to a penal colony was “another injustice layered on her ongoing unjust and wrongful detention.”
“As we work to secure Brittney Griner’s release, we expect Russian authorities to provide our Embassy officials with regular access to all U.S. citizens detained in Russia, including Brittney, as is their obligation,” he said. “Ensuring the health and welfare of U.S. citizen detainees in Russia is a priority, and we will continue to press for fair and transparent treatment for them all.”
Griner’s agent, Lindsay Colas, asked for continued support for Griner’s release.
“Our primary concern continues to be BG’s health and well-being. As we work through this very difficult phase of not knowing exactly where BG is or how she is doing, we ask for the public’s support in continuing to write letters and express their love and care for her,” Colas said in a statement, according to CNN.
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