President Joe Biden is demanding that Russia release WNBA star Brittney Griner after the American was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison on Thursday.
Griner, convicted of deliberately smuggling vape cartridges with cannabis oil into Russia, acknowledged bringing the contraband into the country but said it was an accident. Following Griner’s sentencing Thursday, Biden released a statement blasting Russia for its actions.
“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” Biden said in a statement. “It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.”
Maria Blagovolina, a lawyer on Griner’s defense team, argued that Griner brought the cartridges to Russia by mistake and only used cannabis as medicine and only while in Arizona, where medical marijuana is legal.
The Biden administration had previously tried to exchange “Merchant of Death” — arms dealer Viktor Bout — for Griner and American Paul Whelan to no avail. According to White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Russia made a “bad faith” counter-offer in response to the U.S. government’s proposed deal to free Griner and Whelan.
“My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible,” Biden…
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