WNBA star Brittney Griner has begun serving her nine-year prison sentence at a Russian penal colony, her attorneys confirmed Thursday.
Griner was moved to a Russian forced labor camp in Mordovia — about 210 miles east of Moscow — after a Russian court rejected an appeal of her lengthy sentence last month, which US officials slammed as unjust and politically motivated.
Griner’s lawyers said they visited the two-time Olympic gold medalist earlier this week.
“Brittney is doing as well as could be expected and trying to stay strong as she adapts to a new environment,” they said in a statement Thursday. “Considering that this is a very challenging period for her, there will be no further comments from us.”
Griner, 32, was arrested at a Moscow airport in February when vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which is banned in Russia, were found in her luggage.
During her trial, Griner testified that she inadvertently placed the cartridges into her bag while “stress-packing” for her trip to Russia, where she was contracted to play basketball for a local team during WNBA’s off-season. Her defense team also presented written statements saying she had been prescribed cannabis to treat chronic pain.
In August, she was convicted of cannabis possession and smuggling and was sentenced to nine years in prison.
Her agent, Lindsay Colas, said Thursday that the all-star center is “trying to stay strong.”
“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, thanking the Biden Administration for their ongoing efforts to free Griner.
While details of her detainment are unclear, relatives of former US Marine Trevor Rowdy Reed — who spent nine days in a Russian prison in Mordovia before he was freed earlier this year — said that Griner will experience barbaric living conditions, including rancid food, crippling isolation and oppressive wardens.
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 is also detained at a penal prison in Mordovia serving a 16-year prison sentence after he was convicted of espionage-related charges in 2020.
Last week, President Joe Biden said he hoped Russian President Valdimir Putin would be open to discussing Griner’s release after the midterm elections.