PHOENIX MERCURY

Brittney Griner serving sentence at penal colony in Mordovia region

Nov 17, 2022, 1:31 PM
WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner sits inside a defendants' cage during a hearing at the Kh...
WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner sits inside a defendants' cage during a hearing at the Khimki Court in the town of Khimki outside Moscow on July 15, 2022. (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — WNBA star Brittney Griner has begun serving her nine-year sentence for drug possession at a Russian penal colony, her lawyers and agent said Thursday.

Griner has been relocated to a penal colony in Mordovia, about 350 kilometers (210 miles) east of Moscow.

“Brittney is doing as well as could be expected and trying to stay strong as she adapts to a new environment,” her lawyers said in a statement.

The U.S. State Department has declared Griner to be “wrongfully detained.” As a two-time Olympic gold medalist and star for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, Griner is one of the most prominent U.S. female athletes and her case has put significant pressure on the White House to obtain her release.

U.S. President Joe Biden said last week that he hopes Russian President Vladimir Putin will be more willing to negotiate the release of Griner now that the U.S. midterm elections have been held.

He spoke hours after Griner’s lawyers revealed that she had been sent to one of Russia’s notoriously harsh penal colonies to serve her sentence following a court’s rejection of her appeal. Griner claims she used the vape cartridges for pain treatment and that they were only inadvertently in her luggage due to hasty packing for the trip to Russia, where she played for a Yekaterinburg team in the offseason.

There has been no obvious progress in negotiations, which Russian officials have insisted must remain out of the public eye. Washington reportedly is also seeking the release of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan who is serving a 16-year espionage sentence.

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