Select Page

A court in Russia sentenced Brittney Griner, a professional basketball player from the US, to  up to nine years in prison after finding her guilty of bringing marijuana-infused cartridges into the country. US President Joe Biden condemned the ruling.

After the ruling involving the seizure of her passport, Griner was taken away in handcuffs. She later told reporters that she loved her family.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested in February while she was on her way to play for a professional team in Russia. Her case caught the international community’s attention due to the country’s actions in Ukraine. On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin deployed troops into Ukraine, which led to a new low in the relationship between the two countries.

Her sentence could be a prelude to a prisoner swap between the US and Russia. It would involve an arms dealer from Russia who was previously imprisoned. She admitted that she brought the vape cartridges filled with illegal substances into the country. However, she said she made an honest mistake by mistakenly packing them.

Before the verdict, which was carried out in a court in Russia, she cried as Brittney asked the judge not to put her in prison for a long time. Under pressure to resolve the cases of Americans in Russia, Biden called on the country to free Griner immediately. He also noted that his administration would continue working for her release.

In a statement, Biden noted that the sentence handed down to Griner was another reminder of Russia’s wrongful detention of an American citizen. Biden had said it was unacceptable for Russia to sentence a professional athlete to nine years for an unintentional mistake, also stating that he calls on the country to release her so she can be with her family.

John Kirby, the US National Security Council’s spokesperson, noted that Russia should accept a proposal made by the US for Griner’s release. Her lawyers said they would appeal the verdict. They noted that the court had ignored the evidence they presented. Her defense team also claimed that the court had been unfair.

According to Maria Blagovolina, a partner at a legal firm representing Griner, she was very distressed after the hearing. She said that her client could barely speak. 

She was detained at the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow on February 17 after she was found with vape cartridges filled with hashish oil. Despite pleading guilty, she insisted that she had no intention of bringing drugs into the country.

In court, she admitted that she had made an error and asked the judge not to send her to prison for a long time. She broke down in tears as she hoped the ruling would not affect her life.

She cited the teachings of her parents as the reason she decided to plead guilty. She said she was taught to work hard and take ownership of her responsibilities. Griner mentioned that she had no intention of breaking Russia’s laws and hadn’t planned on bringing drugs into the country.

In response to the international politics surrounding her case, Griner referred to the pawn politics in it. In Russia, marijuana is illegal for both recreational and medicinal purposes. Her lawyers argued that the case had been unfair. Alexander Boikov noted that the case files had been illegally drawn up.