Griner relocated over 200 miles outside Moscow

WNBA star Brittney Griner was relocated to a penal colony in Mordovia, about 210 miles east of Moscow, to serve her nine-year sentence, her lawyers and agent said Thursday.

Griner’s lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, had announced last week that the WNBA star had been transferred to a Russian penal colony but that they did not know her destination at the time.

“Brittney is doing as well as could be expected and trying to stay strong as she adapts to a new environment,” her lawyers said in a statement, noting that they had visited with her earlier this week.

Griner’s agent, Lindsay Colas, said the Phoenix Mercury center was “trying to stay strong” amid the circumstances.

“Despite the fact she is alone and now nearing her ninth month in detention separated from her loved ones, she is trying to stay strong,” Colas said in a statement. “At this time, we will not be sharing any further details, but want to express our deepest thanks to the Biden Administration, the Richardson Center, and to everyone who has reached out to offer words of encouragement to her.”

Griner’s family had dreaded her impending move to a penal colony ever since the appeal of her conviction was denied Oct. 25. 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 pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges in July following her arrest at a Moscow-area airport Feb. 17, when she was found with vape cartridges that contained hashish oil while trying to enter Russia to join her club team in Ekaterinburg. At her trial, Griner admitted to having the canisters in her luggage but testified she packed them inadvertently in her haste to make her flight and had no criminal intent. Her defense team presented written statements saying she had been prescribed cannabis to treat chronic pain.

She was given her nine-year sentence in August before losing her appeal last month.

U.S. officials declared in May that Griner was being wrongfully detained and have called her trial and appeal political theater. The Biden administration has been trying for months to negotiate the release of Griner and another American jailed in Russia, Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan. Whelan was also sent to a penal colony in Mordovia after being convicted of espionage-related charges in 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Information from ESPN’s T.J. Quinn and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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