Brittney Griner Transported To A ‘Harsh’ Russian Penal Colony

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The WNBA player is serving a 9-year sentence overseas after authorities found vape cartridges in her luggage at a Moscow airport. In the latest update, she was transported to a penal colony to serve out her sentence. AP reports the establishment is at a “remote” location in Mordovia. 

Human rights advocates say this particular penal colony is known for harsh conditions and violent criminals. The outlet also says inmates are housed in barracks and engage in menial labor for symbolic pay.

Russian journalist and human rights defender Zoya Svetova said, “In Russia, Mordovia is known as ‘the land of prisoners.’ Its colonies descend directly from the Stalin-era camps and have a reputation for being particularly strict.”

Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, BG’s lawyers, went to visit her in the penal colony. They said, “”Brittney is doing as well as could be expected and trying to stay strong as she adapts to a new environment.”

Since February 17, Brittney has been detained in Russia. Brittney admitted she mistakenly packed the vape cartridges in her luggage. Her defense argued she was prescribed cannabis for pain. On August 4, she was found guilty of drug charges and sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison. 

On August 15, Brittney’s defense team filed an appeal, arguing that her sentence was excessive. The US government deemed Brittney “wrongfully detained” and offered a prison swap in exchange for her release. NPR reports, “Washington has offered to free Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US and once earned the nickname the ‘Merchant of Death.’

The Guardian reports Brittney’s release isn’t a “priority” for Russia. On October 16, Yury Ushakov, an aide to Putin, said:

“In this tense situation, I think that he [Joe Biden] is thinking first and foremost about the upcoming midterm elections so he keeps emphasizing the need to bring back home the basketball player who was detained for drug smuggling. However, it’s not the main issue that we are concerned about.” 

Earlier in October, Joe Biden said he didn’t have any “intentions” of meeting up with Putin, but would meet to discuss Brittney. Russia is “hopeful” to do a prisoner swap.

We’ll keep you updated as details become available.