Brittney Griner sentenced to nine years in Russia

The vape cartridges threw the Texan athlete into the geopolitical maelstrom that ensued when Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine on Feb. 24.

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In the most tense relationship between the US and Russia since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, US President Joe Biden is under pressure to intervene on behalf of Americans detained in Russia.

The US urged Moscow to accept a deal that seeks the release of Griner and another American.

“It is a serious proposal. We urge them to accept it. They should have accepted it weeks ago when we first made it,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby said, without giving details.

Washington has offered to trade Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States, for Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan, sources familiar with the situation have told Reuters.

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Russia had tried to add convicted murderer Vadim Krasikov, who is in prison in Germany, to the proposed swap, a source familiar with the procedure also told Reuters.

When asked on Thursday whether Washington would be willing to reconsider Russia’s request after Griner’s conviction, Kirby rejected it: “I don’t think we’d go so far as to even call it a counter-offer.”

Whelan, who is in possession of American, British, Canadian and Irish passports, was sentenced to 16 years in Russia in 2020 after being convicted of espionage.

WNBA players, coaches and fans joined forces and tried to send strength to the basketball star during a moment of silence.

Before the Connecticut Sun defeated Griner’s team, the Phoenix Mercury 77-64, players from both teams silently bowed their heads for 42 seconds — a nod to Griner’s jersey number.

“Nobody even wanted to play today,” said Phoenix guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, who scored 16 points to lead the Mercury. “How do you approach the game and the track with a clear mind? The whole group cries before the match. You try to honor her and still play hard for her. Regardless of whether she’s here or not. At this point, we must still try to keep her spirit alive.”

Earlier, Biden said his administration would continue to work towards Griner’s release.

“Today, US citizen Brittney Griner was given a prison sentence that is another reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongly holding Brittney,” Biden said in a statement.

“It is unacceptable and I call on Russia to release her immediately so that she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates.”

Reuters, AP

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