WASHINGTON — U.S. embassy officials met with detained basketball star Brittney Griner in Russia on Thursday, the White House and State Department said.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a tweet that U.S. Embassy officials based in Moscow who visited Griner “saw firsthand her tenacity and perseverance despite her present circumstances.”
Speaking to reporters traveling on Air Force One, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Griner “is doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances.” Jean-Pierre said it remains a “top priority” for the Biden administration to secure Griner’s release.
Griner, a center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested in February at a Moscow airport. Russian authorities said she arrived in the country with vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage.
She was found guilty in August of trying to smuggle illegal narcotics into the country and sentenced to nine years in prison. A Russian court denied her appeal in October, upholding the prison term.
“We continue to press for the immediate release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan and fair treatment for every detained American,” Price said in his tweet.
Whelan, a U.S. citizen and former Marine, was detained in a Moscow hotel in 2018 and was accused of spying. He is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence.
Family members of both Griner and Whelan have pressured the Biden administration to do more to bring them back home.
“The U.S. government made a significant offer to the Russians to resolve the current unacceptable and wrongful detentions of American citizens,” Jean-Pierre said.
“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 Russians through all available channels. This continues to be a top priority,” she added.