Russia Slaps Brittney Griner with Long Prison Term in Penal Colony

Brittney Griner

( – A Russian court has sentenced American citizen and WNBA player Brittney Griner to 9.5 years of imprisonment in a penal colony because she was caught with cannabis vaping materials at a Moscow airport.

Griner, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA, had gone to play off-season basketball in Russia when she was detained on February 17.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine a week later, severely worsening US – Russian relations and complicating diplomatic efforts to free her.

Griner has admitted that she had vape cartridges with marijuana oil in her baggage and pleaded guilty to the drug smuggling charges last month. The judge in the city of Khimki, a suburb of Moscow, gave her almost the maximum 10-year sentence.

“I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws here,” Griner said before the verdict, as cited by The Daily Wire.

“I made an honest mistake, and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here. I know everybody keeps talking about political pawns and politics, but I hope that is far from this courtroom,” she added.

Griner’s lawyer, Maria Blagovolina, argued her client had brought the cannabis cartridges with her to Russia by mistake.

She also emphasized that Griner had only used marijuana as medicine in Arizona, where medical marijuana is legal – but to no avail.

The 6-foot, 9-inch basketball player had gone to Russia to play in the Russian Premier League, and FIBA Europe’s EuroLeague as WNBA stars receive higher salaries in off-season games in Asia and Europe.

Griner’s harsh Russian prison sentence comes after last week the United States informally offered Moscow to exchange her and ex-US Marine Paul Whelan for the notorious Russian arms trader Viktor Bout. Whelan has been in a Russian prison since 2018 on spying charges.

Viktor Bout, a former Soviet military officer, considered a very high-profile international criminal, is serving a 25-year sentence in a prison facility in Illinois.

He is known as the “Merchant of Death” for selling heavy and advanced Soviet and Russian weaponry to at least a dozen dictatorships and violent rebel movements around the globe.

For the time being, the Russians are refusing the exchange as they are reportedly demanding that at least one more Russian criminal is included in the deal.

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