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Biden: U.S. To ‘Pursue Every Possible Avenue’ To Bring Griner Home

President Joe Biden has known as on Moscow to launch Brittney Griner and mentioned america will proceed to safe the liberty of the WNBA star, who was sentenced to 9 years in jail by a Russian choose final week.

“It’s unacceptable, and I name on Russia to launch her instantly so she may be along with her spouse, family members, associates, and teammates,” Biden mentioned in a press release on Thursday.

Earlier that day, Griner was discovered responsible on drug costs stemming from her February arrest in a Moscow airport. The prosecutor within the case requested the court docket to condemn Griner to nine-and-a-half years; the choose gave her 9.

“At the moment, American citizen Brittney Griner obtained a jail sentence that’s yet one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” Biden mentioned in his assertion following the responsible verdict.

Griner was arrested on February 17 whereas touring again to compete for the Russian ladies’s basketball group UMMC Ekaterinburg, for whom she has performed since 2014 throughout the WNBA’s offseason. Officers on the airport discovered hashish oil in Griner’s baggage, resulting in the drug costs.

Her detention has created a diplomatic standoff between the U.S. and Russia, with the 2 sides negotiating a possible prisoner alternate in latest days. Late final month, the Biden administration proposed the discharge of Griner and Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen who has been imprisoned on espionage costs in Russia since 2018, in alternate for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms seller at present serving a 25-year jail sentence in america.

Russia reportedly rejected that supply.

In his assertion final week, Biden pledged to safe the discharge of each Griner and Whelan.

“My administration will proceed to work tirelessly and pursue each doable avenue to deliver Brittney and Paul Whelan dwelling safely as quickly as doable,” the president mentioned.

Showing in court docket hours earlier than she was sentenced on Thursday, Griner, a star for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, apologized for the incident in February. She beforehand pleaded responsible to the costs, however mentioned she didn’t intend to interrupt the regulation.

“I wish to apologize to my teammates, my membership, my followers and town of (Yekaterinburg) for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I introduced on them,” Griner mentioned, as quoted by the Related Press. “I wish to additionally apologize to my mother and father, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury group again at dwelling, the wonderful ladies of the WNBA, and my wonderful partner again at dwelling.”

Griner additionally spoke of her expertise taking part in professionally in Russia.

“I had no concept that the group, the cities, the followers, my teammates would make such an incredible impression on me over the 6 1/2 years that I spent right here,” she mentioned, in keeping with the Related Press. “I bear in mind vividly popping out of the gymnasium and all of the little women that have been within the stands there ready on me, and that’s what stored making me come again right here.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned Griner’s conviction final week.

“It places a highlight on our very vital flip with Russia’s authorized system and the Russian authorities’s use of wrongful detentions to advance its personal agenda utilizing people as political pawns,” Blinken mentioned Friday, as quoted by ESPN.

Blinken’s counterpart, Russian Overseas Minister Sergey Lavrov, alluded to the discussions of a prisoner swap with the U.S., saying that Russia was ready to barter.

“We’re prepared to debate this matter, however throughout the framework of the channel that was agreed upon by presidents Putin and Biden,” Lavrov mentioned, as quoted by ESPN. “If the People determine to as soon as once more resort to public diplomacy … that’s their enterprise and I might even say that it’s their drawback.”