Biden: No action on the release of Britney Greiner from Russia Prison News

President Joe Biden said he would meet with Vladimir Putin if the Russian leader was willing to discuss Grenier’s case.

The President of the United States, Joe Biden, said that there was no movement with Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding the release of American basketball star Britney Greiner.

Biden made the comments on Wednesday during a brief exchange with reporters outside the White House.

On Tuesday, Biden told CNN he had no plans to meet Putin at the G20 summit meeting next month, unless the Russian leader was willing to discuss the detention of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star.

“Listen, I have no intention of meeting him,” Biden said. “But, for example, if he comes to me at the G-20 and says, ‘I want to talk about the release of Grenier, I’ll meet him.'”

A Russian court convicted Greiner on August 4 of drug smuggling after police said in February they had found cigarette packets containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

The eight-time All-Star player with WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and two-time Olympic gold medalist admitted that she was carrying the cans in her luggage, but testified that she inadvertently packed them in a hurry and that she had no criminal intent. Her defense team provided written affidavits that she had been prescribed cannabis to treat pain.

She was sentenced to nine years in prison – nearly 10 years maximum for drug possession. Griner’s lawyers argued after the conviction that the sentence was excessive. They also said in similar cases in Russia defendants received an average sentence of about five years, with about a third of them granted parole.

Griner’s attorneys have filed an appeal that is scheduled to be heard in court on October 25.

Her arrest in February came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, just days before Russia invaded Ukraine. At the time, Greiner, recognized as one of the greatest players in WNBA history, was returning to Russia, where she played during the MLS off-season.

Prior to her conviction, the US State Department declared Greiner to be “unjustly detained” – a charge that Russia vehemently rejected.

In July, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken revealed that Washington had made a “substantial proposal” to bring Grenier home, along with Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year prison sentence in Russia for espionage.

Several news agencies have reported that Washington has offered to exchange Greiner and Whelan for a Russian arms dealer, Victor Bout, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States and once earned the nickname “Dealer of Death.”

The White House said it had not yet received a fruitful response from Russia to the offer.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday that US diplomats have not been able to reach Grenier since early August.

Britney Greiner
Britney Greiner is escorted after the final statements to a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow [File: Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool via Reuters]

Last month, Biden met with Sheryl Greiner, wife of Britney Greiner, as well as the player’s agent, Lindsay Colas. Biden also sat separately with Elizabeth Whelan, Paul Whelan’s sister.

After the meetings, the White House said the president assured the families of his “continued commitment to work through all available avenues to bring Britney and Paul home safely.”

On Sunday, former US ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, who traveled to Moscow in September and met with top Russian officials, told CNN that Greiner and Whelan could be released by the end of the year.

“I am cautiously optimistic about the Griner [and] Whelan negotiations,” said Richardson, who has worked privately to secure the release of American detainees abroad.

Richardson added that he believed that the exchange of detainees would include Russians in exchange for Americans. He did not identify the Russians or give a specific time frame.

Asked if the Americans would be released by the end of the year, he said, “I think so. Now, I hate making predictions, but yeah.”

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