“It’s unacceptable”: The White House condemns Russia’s Brittney Griner verdict
The administration says its offer to the Kremlin for a prisoner swap still stands. The proposal is Griner’s next best hope for a speedy and safe return to the US.
The verdict was expected but no less devastating: American basketball star Brittney Griner on Thursday was sentenced to nine years in Russian exile after being convicted of carrying cannabis oil in her luggage.
The next best hope for her speedy and safe return is a prisoner swap with Russia that would free Griner who, along with Paul Whelan, another US national in Russian custody, the White House has declared as wrongfully detained.
The state of play remains the same as when Secretary of State Antony Blinken shared publicly last week that the White House had made a substantial offer for Griner and Whelan’s release.
I’m told the administration is still very interested in making a swap and is continuing to press the Russians aggressively to accept it or move forward with negotiations. But the ball is in Russia’s court as the White House is still waiting on them to respond.
“It’s unacceptable,” President Joe Biden said of the verdict in a statement. “And I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi added her own statement that Congress supports and stands with Biden in making the release of Griner a priority.
“Every day that Brittney Griner remains in detention is a reminder of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s contempt for human rights, human dignity and the law.”