Looks like jailed WNBA player Brittney Griner got some bad news from Joe Biden. The President of the United States does not see any movement toward the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner from a Russian prison, as he says. Biden was asked fielding questions from reporters near the White House, and one of those questions was about if he has seen any movement after he said he was open to discussing it with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In response to that question, Biden said: “Not with Putin.” Not so long before these comments, Biden spoke about a possible meeting with Putin to discuss the release of Griner.
Griner is an Olympic gold medalist who was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison on drug charges. Biden promised that the U.S. would work for her release shortly after Griner was detained. This is what the president said in a statement at the time: “It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”
In 2018, a former U.S. Marine, Paul Whelan was also detained in Russia and sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020 on espionage charges. His family has repeatedly called for his release, while Whelan has maintained his innocence.
Biden was asked during a recent interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, about attending the Group of Twenty (G20) summit next month and possibly talking with Putin amid Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine.
“I have no intention of meeting with him,” Biden responded, according to Newsweek. “But, for example, if he came to me at the G20 and said, ‘I want to talk about the release of Griner,’ I would meet with him,” he added.
A political science professor at Syracuse University, Brian Taylor, whose research focuses on Russia and Putin said that he thinks Biden’s recent comment “should be interpreted that there is no movement by Putin to discuss Griner, although perhaps there is movement on the Griner case independent of Putin.”
“More generally, U.S. – Russian relations will continue to be bad as long as Russia is waging war against Ukraine,” he added. “But Biden wants to leave open the possibility of trying to arrange the release of Brittney Griner and other Americans held illegitimately in Russia, such as Paul Whelan,” explained Taylor, who is the author of ‘State Building in Putin’s Russia: Policing and Coercion after Communism.’
After Griner was caught in possession of cannabis oil at an airport near the Russian capital of Moscow, was sentenced to prison in August. U.S. officials reportedly spoke shortly after that about a prisoner swap so Griner could be released. The U.S. would be required to release Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in this exchange, who is known as the “Merchant of Death.”
In August, attorney Andrew M. Lieb said that American citizens should learn from Griner’s detainment.
“Hopefully, the Biden administration can get Brittney home, but, regardless, every citizen should learn from her experience before boarding a plane that crosses any border,” said Lieb.
“Nine years for bringing a cannabis-infused vape cartridge is cringeworthy to every American, but that is the reality of travel when you don’t first study up on the laws and the political climate of where you are headed,” he added. The Associated Press reported that a Russian court agreed to schedule Griner’s appealing hearing for the charges for October 25.