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U.S. Officials Meet with Brittney Griner in Russia

U.S. Embassy officials met with WNBA star Brittney Griner Thursday in Russia, where she and the United States work to fight against her near-decade sentence.

Griner was arrested in Moscow in February, where authorities described her as possessing vape canisters containing cannabis oil. The two-time Olympic gold medalist was found guilty in August of smuggling drugs into the country and was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison.

According to NBC News, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Griner is “doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances.”

Just one week ago, Griner’s appeal was denied in a Russian court, upholding her nine-year sentence. The United States remains steadfast that Griner is wrongfully detained and says that it put forth a “substantial offer” in the summer entailing a prisoner swap that would result in the freedom of both Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan. This offer has yet to be accepted, despite strong encouragement from the White House to do so.

The U.S. sees the significant sentence as a political gesture, a bigger picture than a simple criminal case. The Women's National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) spoke strongly in its support of Griner’s appeal, saying that “This appeal is further verification that BG is not just wrongfully detained – she is very clearly a hostage,” adding that, “No athlete should be used as a political pawn,” (NPR).

With no significant breakthrough in the ongoing case, the White House reiterates that it is being treated with the utmost urgency. “This continues to be a top priority,” said Jean-Pierre.

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