According to official Russian reports, imprisoned American basketball player Brittney Griner has been transferred from a Russian prison to a penal colony.
Speaking on Wednesday, Nov. 9, her attorneys, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said “We do not have any information on her exact current location or her final destination”.
Griner was detained in February after cannabis oil vapes were discovered in her luggage at Sheremetyovo Airport.
The two-time Olympian received a nine-year prison term after being found guilty of attempting to smuggle and obtain cannabis oil in August.
Griner admitted guilt at the time of her trial but claimed she had made an “honest mistake”, and had not intended to break the law.
Despite the efforts of Griner and her legal team to have her nine-year sentence overturned last month, a Russian court upheld it, with the state prosecutor describing it as “fair.”
Attorney Alexander Boykov had expressed hope that a prisoner exchange would be possible. Speaking in a post-conviction interview Boykov criticised Griner’s sentence as being excessively harsh, saying that “no judge, hand on heart, will honestly say that Griner’s nine-year sentence is in line with Russian criminal law.”
Russia and the U.S. reportedly discussed an exchange of prisoners that would include Griner and convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout this summer. Russia, according to officials, has not yet responded favourably to the idea and has stated that diplomacy should not be conducted in public.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has said the U.S. was “unwavering” in its efforts to release Griner and other Americans who were being held in a prison colony.
She added that U.S. President Joe Biden had directed his administration to act quickly, “prevail on her Russian captors to improve her treatment and the conditions she may be forced to endure in a penal colony”.
Moscow has been accused of using Griner “as a political pawn” in light of escalating tensions between the Kremlin and the U.S.
Penal colonies are the direct descendants of gulags, or forced prison camps, which were prevalent in Soviet times.
Griner is widely regarded as one of the greatest female basketball players of all time.