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5 Aug, 2022 11:10

Kremlin comments on Griner options

The US women’s basketball star was jailed for nine years by a Russian court on Thursday
Kremlin comments on Griner options

Brittney Griner has the right to appeal her nine-year prison sentence on drugs charges, the Kremlin has said, although it refrained from commenting in detail on the case of the US women’s basketball star. 

Griner, 31, was sentenced by Khimki City Court outside Moscow on Thursday after she was caught with illegal hashish vape oil cartridges in her luggage at Sheremetyevo Airport in mid-February. 

Her case has attracted significant attention, with the US State Department classifying Griner as “wrongfully detained.” 

Russian officials have refuted those claims, noting that Griner broke the law and should not be treated as an exception because she is a foreigner. 

Asked to comment on Griner’s sentence, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the decision of the court was not a matter for the Kremlin, but did refer to the basketball player’s rights moving forward, including a potential request for a presidential pardon.    

“We can’t comment on court decisions, and I won’t do it on this occasion,” Peskov said, according to RIA.   

“All issues of a pardon are prescribed in our law. There are certain procedures that convicts can use in accordance with the law,” he added.  

Griner’s Russian legal team have already said they intend to appeal her sentence.

Griner had pleaded guilty in her trial and said the cartridges had ended up in her luggage by mistake as she was packing in a hurry to travel to Russia.

Griner usually plays for the Phoenix Mercury but has appeared for Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason since 2015.

Whether Griner serves the entirety of her Russian prison sentence remains to be seen, with contact at diplomatic level between the US and Russia over a potential prisoner swap. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed on Friday that Moscow is willing to discuss the issue, but warned Washington against “thunderous” grandstanding on the issue. 

“There is a specialized channel that was agreed upon by the presidents [of Russia and the US]. Whatever public statements whoever makes, this channel remains relevant,” said Lavrov on a visit to Cambodia.

Washington has requested that Moscow release Griner and fellow US citizen Paul Whelan, a former Marine who was convicted of espionage in Russia in 2020.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reportedly offered to exchange them for Viktor Bout, a Russian businessman serving a 25-year sentence in the States on arms dealing charges.

According to US media, Lavrov made a counterproposal when he and Blinken discussed the issue on the phone last week.

The name of Vadim Krasikov, a Russian national convicted of murder in Germany last year, was mentioned by CNN as part of a potential deal.