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

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U.S. embassy officials in Russia have met with jailed WNBA star Britney Greener, the White House said Thursday.

“We were told she did a great job in this situation,” White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre told reporters on Air Force One after the State Department confirmed the meeting.

Griner was sentenced to 9.5 years in prison for entering Russia with less than a gram of cannabis oil illegal in Russia. She has been imprisoned since her arrest on 17 February.

Last week, a Russian court rejected Greener’s appeal against her jail sentence.

Jean-Pierre said on Thursday that Russia continued to reject a “significant offer” by the United States to “address the current unacceptable and wrongful detention” of Greene and Paul Whelan, also former U.S. detainees in Russia. Marines. Just last month, Jean-Pierre told reporters that Russia had yet to respond to a “serious” offer made by the Biden administration in July to release Griner.

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“Despite the lack of good-faith negotiations by the Russians, the U.S. government continues to follow up on this proposal and propose alternative potential ways forward with the Russians through all available channels,” Jean-Pierre said on Thursday. “It remains a top priority.”

However, Jean-Pierre did not provide any details of the alternative proposal to Russia.

State Department spokeswoman Ned Price tweeted on Thursday that the U.S. embassy representative who met with Greener had “witnessed firsthand her tenacity and perseverance in the current situation.”

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

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A spokesman for the Greener family did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the visit by embassy officials.

The U.S. government has long described Greener’s arrest as a “wrongful detention.”

Griner’s lawyers were last week after a Russian court dismissed her appeal. Said they would discuss the possibility of further appeals with clients and that they intended to make use of “all available legal tools”. Once the appeal process is over, she will be transferred to exile.

Greener, a 6-foot-9 center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury team and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was detained in February at Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow while trying to enter Russia. Playing there in the offseason. She turned 32 in prison last month, and family and friends used to call for her release and safe return to the United States.

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In August, Russia admitted for the first time that it was in talks to free Griner and Whelan, but did not confirm media reports suggesting a possible exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving 25 years in the United States.

Griner and Whelan’s families met with President Biden at the White House in September to discuss the prison sentences of their relatives. At the time, White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Biden “will not give up” on his efforts to get Russia to release Greener and Whelan.

“We want these two to go back to where they were with their families,” Kirby said.

Maite Fernández Simon and Mary Ilyushina contributed to this report.

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