Biden hopeful Griner talks ease post-midterms

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says he hopes Russian President Vladimir Putin will be more willing to negotiate the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner now that the U.S. midterm elections are over.

Biden made the comment during a news conference Wednesday to discuss the midterm election results.

He added that he is “determined to get her home” as well as others.

“My hope is that now that the election is over, that Mr. Putin will be able to discuss with us and be willing to talk more seriously about a prisoner exchange,” Biden said.

Griner is in the process of being transferred to a Russian penal colony, but her lawyers don’t know where she is or where she’s heading, her Russian legal team announced earlier Wednesday in Moscow.

The transfer began Friday, her lawyers said, a day after U.S. embassy officials visited her and far ahead of the schedule they had anticipated after Griner’s appeal was denied Oct. 25. Typically, her attorneys had said, a transfer takes weeks or months. Griner’s attorneys and U.S. officials were not aware she had been moved until Tuesday.

Griner’s family might not know where she is for some time; according to her lawyers, “Notification is given via official mail and normally takes up to two weeks to be received.”

Russian penal colonies are known for having far harsher conditions than the Moscow jail where Griner has been since she was detained in February.

Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, released a statement Tuesday night, saying: “Our primary concern continues to be BG’s health and well-being. As we work through this very difficult phase of not knowing exactly where BG is or how she is doing, we ask for the public’s support in continuing to write letters and express their love and care for her.”

Colas said her team remains in “close contact” with the U.S. government and the Richardson Center, a private organization run by Bill Richardson that works to bring detained Americans home. Both the State Department and Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, “are using all available resources to determine her whereabouts, ensure her safety and bring her home,” Colas said.

“We are thankful for everyone’s support, and hope that as we near nine months of detention, that BG and all wrongfully detained Americans will be shown mercy and returned home to their families for the holidays.”

Griner’s last contact with anyone from outside the jail was Thursday when U.S. embassy officials were able to visit her. She last saw her attorneys the day before.

Her family declined to offer a statement late Tuesday in the United States.

Griner pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges in July. U.S. officials declared in May that Griner was being wrongfully detained and have called her trial and appeal political theater. After an appeals court upheld her conviction two weeks ago, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the decision was “another failure of justice, compounding the injustice of her detention.”

U.S. officials have said they made a “serious” offer to trade for Griner’s freedom in June but have not yet received what they consider to be a legitimate counteroffer, which the White House reiterated in a statement Wednesday morning despite what it called additional attempts.

“In the subsequent weeks, despite a lack of good faith negotiation by the Russians, the U.S. Government has continued to follow up on that offer and propose alternative potential ways forward with the Russians through all available channels,” it said. “The U.S. Government is unwavering in its commitment to its work on behalf of Brittney and other Americans detained in Russia — including fellow wrongful detainee Paul Whelan.”

Griner was arrested at a Moscow-area airport Feb. 17 while trying to enter Russia to join her club team in Ekaterinburg.

ESPN’s T.J. Quinn contributed to this report.

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