Now that the midterms are over, President Joe Biden is hopeful that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be open to discussing the release of Brittney Griner.
According to Reuters, Biden said at a press conference, "My hope is, now that the election is over, that Mr. Putin will be able to discuss with us and be willing to talk more seriously about prisoner exchange.” Earlier in the year, a Putin aide accused Biden of wanting Griner released before the midterms for an election boost.
In February, the WNBA star, who had been playing for UMMC Yekaterinburg in Russia, was arrested by the Russian Federal Customs Service at Sheremetyevo Airport near Moscow. Agents said they found hashish oil vape cartridges in her luggage. According to The Washington Post, she was charged with transporting a “significant amount,” or 0.702 grams, of cannabis oil. Griner’s arrest came amid escalating global tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Griner pleaded guilty but argued in court that she did not intentionally put the cartridges in her luggage and packed them in haste. In a written statement, her defense presented evidence that she had been prescribed cannabis to treat pain. However, on Aug. 4, the WNBA star was convicted and sentenced to 9 years for drug smuggling.
Griner attempted to appeal her sentence but was rejected by the Moscow Regional Court last month. She has since been transferred to a Russian penal colony.