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Russian Authorities Move Brittney Griner To A Penal Colony

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 12: A close up shot of Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury at practice and media availability during the 2021 WNBA Finals on October 11, 2021 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)
Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Nine months to the day after being detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, Brittney Griner is being transferred to a Russian penal colony, per a report from Reuters. Griner’s lawyers told the press last week that she was going to be sent to a penal colony, after her nine-year sentence was upheld and she was transferred out of a detention center in Moscow. “We do not have any information on her exact current location or her final destination,” said attorneys Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov. “In accordance with the standard Russian procedure, the attorneys, as well as the US Embassy, should be notified upon her arrival at her destination.”

According to Reuters, Griner is being taken to Female Penal Colony IK-2 in Yavas. The penal colony is in the Mordovia region, which is the same region that American Paul Whelan is also being held on a 16-year sentence. American authorities confirmed to Reuters that they were aware of reports and had talked to her lawyers, though they expressed frustration with the Russian state for neglecting their obligation to inform the State Department about her movements. “We are communicating very clearly to the Russians requesting information on her current location as well as her destination in addition to the message that we expect consistent with their obligations, including under under the Vienna Convention, to have a consistent consular access to Brittney Griner,” an official said last week.

Griner’s case progressed through the Russian court system slowly, as she was detained in February on drug trafficking charges after airport security found two cartridges of cannabis vape oil in her bag. Griner has a medical prescription for cannabis in the state of Arizona. Precious little information on Griner’s condition, her location, and the legal basis for her detention actually got out to the public, a state of confusion that was only heightened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine one week after Griner’s arrest. U.S. officials classified her as “wrongfully detained” in May, and she was only given her first hearing following what Russian officials called an “investigation” in July. A Russian court handed her a nine-year sentence in August, then upheld it in October after Griner requested a suspended sentence.

The Biden State Department has been actively trying to secure Griner’s release since this summer, offering to swap arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who is currently imprisoned in a federal prison in Illinois. The Russians countered by also demanding the release of Vadim Krasikov, an assassin who has been linked to an FSB special forces assassination unit and is imprisoned in Germany. Trevor Reed, an American who was freed from Russia in a prisoner swap earlier in 2022, is one of the many people calling on the administration to more aggressively seek her release. NBA officials have said they are actively trying to get Griner out, and Steph Curry closed his ring night speech out with a tribute to Griner.