The American women’s basketball star was jailed for nine years by a Russian court on Thursday
Brittney Griner has the right to appeal her nine-year prison sentence for drug trafficking, the Kremlin has said, although it refrained from commenting in detail on the case of the American women’s basketball star.
Griner, 31, was sentenced by Khimki City Court outside Moscow on Thursday after she was caught with illegal hashish vape oil cartridges in her luggage at Sheremetyevo airport in mid-February .
His case attracted a lot of attention, with the US State Department classifying Griner as “wrongfully detained”.
Russian officials have refuted those claims, noting that Griner broke the law and should not be treated as an exception because she is foreign.
Asked to comment on Griner’s sentencing, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the court’s decision was not up to the Kremlin, but referred to the basketball player’s rights in the future, including a possible presidential pardon request.
“We can’t comment on court decisions, and I won’t on this occasion,” Peskov said, according to RIA.
“All matters of grace are prescribed in our law. There are certain procedures that convicts can use in accordance with the law,” he added.
Griner’s Russian legal team has already announced its intention to appeal his conviction.
Griner had pleaded guilty at her trial and said the cartridges ended up in her luggage by mistake as she was hastily packing for Russia.
Griner typically plays for the Phoenix Mercury but has appeared for Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason since 2015.
US basketball bosses react to Griner’s Russian prison sentence
Whether Griner will serve his full Russian prison sentence remains to be seen, with contacts at the diplomatic level between the United States and Russia over a possible prisoner swap.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed on Friday that Moscow was open to discussing the issue, but warned Washington against “thunderous” demagoguery on the issue.
“There is a specialty channel that has been agreed upon by the presidents [of Russia and the US]. Regardless of anyone’s public statements, this channel remains relevant,” said Lavrov during a visit to Cambodia.
Washington has asked Moscow to release Griner and fellow American Paul Whelan, a former Marine who was convicted of spying in Russia in 2020.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly offered to trade them for Viktor Bout, a Russian businessman serving a 25-year sentence in the United States for arms trafficking.
According to US media, Lavrov made a counter offer when he and Blinken discussed the issue on the phone last week.
The name of Vadim Krasikov, a Russian national convicted of murder in Germany last year, has been mentioned by CNN in connection with a potential deal.