Russian court rejects Griner appeal
A Russian court on Tuesday upheld a nine-year prison sentence handed to WNBA star Brittney Griner over the summer, officially denying her appeal.
The regional court in Moscow did lower Griner’s sentence to eight years by factoring in her time served in pre-trial detention.
Before the Tuesday hearing, Griner’s attorneys had said the detained basketball star did “not expect any miracles” to happen, but had hoped for a reduced sentence.
“We see her often. Brittney is very mentally strong and has a champion’s character,” the attorneys wrote in the Monday statement. “However, she of course has her highs and lows as she is under an increasing amount of stress and has been separated from her loved ones for over eight months.”
Griner was detained by Russian authorities in February for carrying cannabis oil cartridges. She was convicted on drug charges in August and sentenced to nine years in prison.
The detention of the two-time Olympic gold medalist and eight-time All-Star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury came amid heightened tensions between Russia and the U.S. and just one week before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Griner’s wife has also spoken about the hardships she’s endured away from her partner and that she is “terrified” she won’t see her again.
The Biden administration has floated the idea of a prisoner swap with Russia to get both Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan back home, but talks so far have not yielded any results.
“We’re in constant contact with Russian authorities to get Brittney and others out,” President Biden said on Tuesday. “And so far, we are not meeting with much positive response. But we’re not stopping.”
–Brett Samuels contributed to this report, which was updated at 2:38 p.m.