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Brittney Griner Moved To Russian Penal Colony in Unknown Location

Brittney Griner, an American basketball player, was moved to Russia this week. Her family and legal team are still in denial about her whereabouts. 

The New York Times reported that Griner’s lawyers “said in a statement [on Wednesday] that her destination was unknown and that they expected to be notified through official mail, along with the U.S. Embassy, once she has arrived, a process that can take up to two weeks.”

Griner, 32 years old, was taken into custody in Russia after she was charged with drug offences at Moscow Airport. Griner claimed that she was only joking when security officers found marijuana oil in Griner’s bag.

Griner was sentenced by a Russian court to nine years imprisonment in August. Her appeal was rejected last month. 

Her transfer to a Russian penal colony marks another dark development for Griner, a star for the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA and widely regarded as one of the greatest women’s basketball players ever. 

The Times, penal colonies “are notorious for abusive treatment of inmates, overcrowding and harsh conditions.”

“Some prisoners are tortured, or beaten by fellow inmates. Others are required to work sixteen-hour days. A few are forced to watch Russian propaganda on repeat,” the Times reported. “This is the world of the Russian penal colony, into which Brittney Griner is about to be inducted for a nine-year term after her sentencing on drug smuggling charges was upheld last month.”

The transfer also makes the already trying circumstances even more difficult for Griner’s friends and family back home.

“Prisoners are typically not allowed to communicate with the outside world for a week or two while they are moved, and lawyers and family members do not know where the inmates are going — learning which penal colony the sentence will be served in only once the prisoner arrives,” the Times said.

Griner’s ongoing detention, coming at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and Russia, has turned into a diplomatic standoff. 

U.S. seeks a prisoner exchange with Russia to secure Griner’s release and Paul Whelan’s release. Griner is an American citizen, who was detained in Russia since 2018 on charges of espionage. 

Viktor Bout is a Russian arms dealer who currently serves a 25 year sentence in prison. 

Russia has so far resisted this offer. 

Griner was last week detained by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. 

“We are told she is doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances,” the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre said last week following the meeting, as quoted by The New York Times.

“As we have said before, the U.S. government made a significant offer to the Russians to resolve the current unacceptable and wrongful detentions of American citizens Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan,” Jean-Pierre added, as quoted by the Times. “I can also tell you that in the subsequent weeks, despite a lack of good faith negotiation by the Russians, the U.S. government has continued to follow up on that offer and propose alternative potential ways forward with Russians through all available channels.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden spoke at a news conference that with midterm elections now over in the United States, he believes that Russian President Vladmir Putin can return to the negotiation table.

“My hope is that now that the election is over, that Mr. Putin will be able to discuss with us and be willing to talk more seriously about a prisoner exchange,” Biden said, as quoted by ESPN.