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Joe Biden is demanding that Russia release 6-foot-9 WNBA star Brittney Griner.
Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison after she was found guilty of drug possession and drug smuggling in Russia. The judge also fined her 1 million rubles.
“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” Biden said in a statement. “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,” Biden said.
“I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws here,” Griner said. “I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here. I know everybody keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope that that is far from this courtroom.”
“Corrective labor colonies” are the most common type of prison in Russia and they’re described as “a place where the authorities can act with impunity, free to torture prisoners in the hope of extracting a false confession.”
Prisoners are assigned to “work brigades” and given daily tasks to complete. The system is designed to punish them further even if they complete the task.
“In many ways, even more cruel was the Catch-22 built into [the] forced labour: Fill your work quotas and the quotas themselves will be increased; yet fail to meet them and you’ll be punished.”
Life in a Russian prison can be very difficult, according to the brother of an American imprisoned in Russia. U.S. Marine Paul Whelan was arrested in Russia and accused of being a spy, which he denies. His brother, David Whelan, has spoken out about the condition of the prisons.
USA Today reported that Griner’s cell likely has “ancient” plumbing. Many cells have no toilet, but only a hole in the ground.
“When they talk about buildings being Stalin-era, they’re not kidding,” David Whelan said.
In response, Griner said, “I want to apologize to my teammates, my club, my fans and the city of (Yekaterinburg) for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them.”
Breaking: Brittney Griner was found guilty of drug possession and smuggling in a Russian court outside Moscow. Griner has been sentenced to nine years in prison.
The true length of her detainment will be determined by negotiations on a prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia. pic.twitter.com/2PBk2HFBR2
— ESPN (@espn) August 4, 2022
“I want to also apologize to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury organization back at home, the amazing women of the WNBA, and my amazing spouse back at home,” she added.
Griner traveled to Russia where she was arrested with carrying cannabis oil vape cartridges in her luggage. Griner admitted to carrying the drugs and pled guilty to the charges.
To gain her freedom, Joe Biden is reportedly offering to trade notorious Russian terrorist arms dealer Viktor Bout who is serving a 25-year sentence in a U.S. prison.
Bout, who inspired the movie “Lord of War” starring Nicholas Cage, was found guilty of conspiracy to kill Americans, conspiracy to deliver anti-aircraft missiles, and aiding a terrorist organization.
He offered $20 million in weapons to a narco-terrorist group called Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
The Biden administration has offered to exchange Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout for Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, per @CNN
Griner has been detained for 160 days. pic.twitter.com/iGcpT8P07v
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 27, 2022
This “breathtaking arsenal of weapons” included hundreds of surface-to-air missiles, machine guns and sniper rifles. He also offered 10 million rounds of ammunition and five tons of plastic explosives.
Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” was captured in a sting operation carried out by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration informants in Bangkok, Thailand.
President Donald Trump said the swap “doesn’t seem like a very good trade.”
“She knew you don’t go in there loaded up with drugs, and she admitted it,” Trump said.
“I assume she admitted it without too much force because it is what it is, and it certainly doesn’t seem like a very good trade, does it? He’s absolutely one of the worst in the world, and he’s gonna be given his freedom because a potentially spoiled person goes into Russia loaded up with drugs.”
“She went in there loaded up with drugs into a hostile territory where they’re very vigilant about drugs,” Trump added.
“They don’t like drugs. And she got caught. And now we’re supposed to get her out — and she makes, you know, a lot of money, I guess. We’re supposed to get her out for an absolute killer and one of the biggest arms dealers in the world. Killed many Americans. Killed many people.”
In addition to receiving Griner, the trade would also free 52-year-old retired U.S. Marine Paul Whelan who was arrested in 2018 in Russia on espionage charges.
Whelan was found guilty and sentenced in June 2020 to 16 years of “hard labor” in a Russian prison.
More on this story via Fox News:
The Russian state-owned news agency TASS originally reported in May that talks are underway to exchange Bout for Griner.
Russian officials see Bout as a “high-value asset” and are likely pushing hard for the exchange, according to former Defense Intelligence Agency officer Rebekah Koffler.
“Moscow wants him back because he possesses critical insights that he can share with the GRU, his former agency. Having been in a U.S. prison and interrogated by U.S. officials, he knows what our intelligence requirements are and other information that is valuable for the Russians,” Koffler, the author of “Putin’s Playbook: Russia’s Secret Plan to Defeat America,” told Fox News Digital.
“It would be a big mistake for the U.S. to give up Viktor Bout, as much as one feels compassion for Ms. Griner and Mr. Whelan.”
The Biden administration confirmed Wednesday that it has made a “substantial proposal” to help free Griner and Whelan.
“The U.S. government continues to work aggressively, pursuing every avenue, to make that happen and as part of those efforts we made a substantial proposal to bring Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan home,” a White House spokesperson told Fox News on Wednesday.