Brittney Griner, a WNBA star, has been transferred to a Russian forced labor camp, months after being arrested in Russia for allegedly possessing cannabis oil.
The latest development comes after Griner’s appeal of her nine-year sentence was denied by a Russian court last month. The White House issued a statement condemning the move early Wednesday morning.
“Every minute that Brittney Griner must endure wrongful detention in Russia is a minute too long,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in the statement.
“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,” the statement continued.
“The U.S. Government is unwavering in its commitment to its work on behalf of Brittney and other Americans detained in Russia – including fellow wrongful detainee Paul Whelan,” Jean-Pierre concluded.
Griner will face harsh conditions in the forced labor camp, and her family will struggle to contact her or even locate her.
Griner was in Russia in February to compete in the WBNA offseason when Russian authorities discovered cannabis oil in her luggage. She was arrested right away for having the vape cartridges and was later sentenced to nine years in prison.
On Griner’s 32nd birthday last month, her representatives released a statement thanking her supporters.
“Thank you everyone for fighting so hard to get me home. All the support and love are definitely helping me,” Griner said from prison, according to the statement.
The US government has held prisoner swap talks with Russia, but no significant progress appears to have been made. According to Rebekah Koffler, author of “Putin’s Playbook,” tense relations over the Russo-Ukrainian War have impacted the negotiations.
“This is yet another case that demonstrates that Americans, particularly Americans of Russian descent, are not safe in Russia, especially now when relations between Moscow and Washington are at their lowest point in history, including the Cold War,” the intelligence expert said last month.