- US officials were able to meet with Brittney Griner in person Thursday for the first time in weeks.
- State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said Griner displayed “tenacity” and “perseverance.”
US officials were able to meet with WNBA player Brittney Griner in Russia on Thursday for the first time in weeks, according to State Department Spokesperson Ned Price.
“[US Russian embassy officials] visited Brittney Griner today,” Price tweeted. “They saw firsthand her tenacity and perseverance despite her present circumstances.”
—Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) November 3, 2022
The visit comes days after a Russian court denied her request for a reduced prison sentence after she was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony on drug smuggling charges in August.
The basketball player was arrested at the Moscow airport in February after officials alleged they discovered vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. Griner was in Russia to play with the Russian Premier League during the WNBA off-season.
US officials were last able to meet with Griner in person in early August, according to ABC News, but spoke with her over the phone on her birthday on October 18.
“We continue to press for the immediate release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan and fair treatment for every detained American,” Price tweeted after the Thursday meeting.
Paul Whelan is another wrongfully-detained American who was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020 on espionage charges. Both Griner and Whelan’s families have pushed the Biden administration to bring their family members home.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Thursday that Griner is “doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances.”
Earlier this week, Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, expressed concern about the athlete’s mental health.
“She told me like, ‘I’m really just trying to hold on to the last bit of you that I can remember, you know?'” Cherelle Griner told co-hosts of “The View” on Tuesday. “She’s like, ‘My mind is fading in here.’ And you know, it’s just so disheartening to hear.”
Griner and Whelan’s last hope is likely a prisoner swap with Russia, but negotiations between the US and Russia have seemingly stalled since the Biden administration said in August it made a proposal to swap the two in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US.
Legal experts and hostage negotiators told Insider’s Meredith Cash last week that Russia is too busy “causing chaos” to negotiate.