Lee Heidhues 11.18.2022
The terrible saga of Brittney’s Griner’s inhumane treatment by the Russian government continues.
Thursday Brittney was transferred to a Russian penal colony 300 miles from Moscow to serve her nine year sentence for allegedly bringing a small amount of marijuana oil into the country last March.
At the same time the Russians are sending Brittney to the Gulag, the government spokesman is cynically saying a prisoner swap which would result in her release may occur soon.
A day after it emerged that the American basketball star Brittney Griner had been sent to a Russian penal colony, a top Russian diplomat said on Friday that the prospect of a prisoner exchange was increasing, and acknowledged that it could involve a Russian arms dealer imprisoned in the United States.
But U.S. officials dismissed the suggestion of any new optimism about an agreement, saying that the Kremlin had not been serious about negotiating a deal.
She has been jailed for nine months and was sentenced to nine years for entering Russia with vape cartridges containing hashish oil, and her lawyers confirmed on Thursday that she had been transferred to a penal colony, where harsh conditions and mistreatment are commonplace.
Since June, the Biden administration has proposed trading Viktor Bout, the arms dealer, for Ms. Griner, who has been jailed for nine months, and Paul N. Whelan, an American held for almost four years and convicted of espionage, according to U.S. officials and numerous news media reports.
“We have made a substantial offer that the Russian Federation has consistently failed to negotiate in good faith,” a department spokesman, Vedant Patel, said at a news briefing. The U.S. government “has continued to follow up on that proposal and propose alternative potential ways forward.”
But, he said, the Kremlin’s “failure to seriously negotiate on these issues in the established channel, or any other channel for that matter, runs counter to its public statements.”
Their fates have been caught up in the hardening confrontation between Washington and Moscow over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which American officials say is reflected in the tough treatment of Ms. Griner.
Mr. Bout is currently serving a 25-year sentence in a U.S. prison for conspiring to sell weapons to people who said they planned to kill Americans. Since his arrest in 2008, Russia has repeatedly made efforts to secure his release.
In addition to Ms. Griner’s case, the Biden administration has been working to secure the release of Paul Whelan, a former Marine who in 2020 was sentenced to 16 years in a high-security Russian prison on espionage charges.