Brittney Griner: Defense team appeals verdict that sentences her to 9 years for drug smuggling

The US State Department maintains that Griner is being wrongly detained, and her case has raised concerns that she is being used as a political pawn in Russia’s war against Ukraine. US officials have offered a possible prisoner swap with Russia to try and get her home safely.
Griner, 31, was arrested in February for carrying cannabis oil vape cartridges in her luggage. The two-time US Olympic basketball gold medalist pleaded guilty to drug possession, saying she accidentally packed the drugs while in a hurry.
The nine-year sentence, along with a fine of approximately $16,400, was issued on Aug. 4 by Khimki City Judge Anna Sotnikova, who said the court took into consideration Griner’s partial admission of guilt, remorse for the act, state of health and charitable activities .
Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout has been named in bilateral talks between Moscow and Washington over a prisoner swap between Griner and American Paul Whelan, director of the North American branch of the Russian foreign ministry, Alexander Darchiev, told Russian state media TASS Saturday. Whelan has been detained by Russia since 2018 for alleged espionage.
Lawyer of convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout is 'trust' prisoner swap with US is going to happen

‚ÄúThis quite sensitive issue of the exchange of convicted Russian and American citizens is being discussed through the channels defined by our presidents. Indeed, these individuals are being discussed. The Russian side has long been pushing for the release of Viktor Bout. The details should be left to professionals, based on the ‘do not harm’ principle,” Darchiev told TASS.

Darchiev responded to a request for comment on US news reports that US officials sent a proposal to Moscow to trade Bout for Griner and Whelan, TASS reported.

During months of internal discussions between US agencies, the Justice Department opposed the trade in Bout, people who have been briefed on the matter say. However, Justice officials eventually accepted a Bolt trade with the support of top State Department and White House officials, including President Joe Biden, sources say.
The Russian government has often cited Bout as the subject of a potential trade for some Americans. Bout’s lawyer has said he is “sure” that the exchange will happen.

CNN’s Kylie Atwood, Evan Perez, Jennifer Hansler and Chandelis Duster contributed to this report.

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