The WNBA player, whose whereabouts are unknown, is in prison 500km southeast of Moscow, lawyers confirm.
United States basketball player Brittney Griner has been transferred to a penitentiary in Russia’s Mordovia region to serve a nine-year prison sentence for drug possession, her lawyers have confirmed, as President Joe Biden’s administration continues to push to be released.
Griner’s lawyers said Thursday that she was taken to the Female Penal Colony IK-2 in the town of Yavas, about 500km (300 miles) southeast of Moscow.
The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) champion was transferred from a detention center near the capital of Russia on November 4. When her lawyers said at the time that she was transferred to a detention center, where she was known to the public.
“We can confirm that Brittney has been incarcerated in IK-2 in Mordovia. We visited her earlier this week,” said the lawyers of Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boikov in a statement on Thursday.
“Brittney is doing as well as we could hope and trying to stay strong as she adjusts to a new environment.”
The US State Department said on Wednesday that the embassy in Moscow had been unable to contact Griner since his transfer.
“We, through our lawyers, know where he is and are in regular contact with Ms Griner’s legal team, but the Russian government has not yet released any information about the US citizen, which we strongly oppose,” Deputy Spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.
“Our ambassador and our mission in Moscow will continue to press for more information about his transfer and his current whereabouts, and these requests are ongoing.”
Russian prisons are known for their brutality, where prisoners are placed in camps, not in single cells, and forced to perform daily tasks.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, is one of two US citizens Washington says has been detained in Russia without warrant. Paul Whelan, a former US Marine, was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2020 on espionage charges.
Griner’s arrest earlier this year came just days before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine and his case has moved through Russian courts amid strained relations between Moscow and Washington over the war.
Russian authorities say they found vape cartridges containing marijuana oil in his bag when he was coming to the country to play for the Russian team during the WNBA games.
He was sentenced to nine years in prison in August and, last month, a Russian court upheld the sentence, which basketball defense lawyers described as excessive.
In previous appearances, Griner said he didn’t want to bring the vape cartridges to Russia and that it was “a real mistake” that he had them in his bags.
Since Griner’s arrest, family members, teammates and supporters have been calling on the US government to drop the case so he can be released.
In September, Biden met with the Griner and Whelan families to update them on his efforts.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in July that Washington had made a “big offer” to Moscow to release the two. Several US media outlets reported at the time that Biden’s administration had offered to exchange prisoners for a Russian arms dealer who had been arrested in the US.
US officials say they are continuing to work with their Russian counterparts to protect the two Americans.
Despite strained relations between Washington and Moscow, Russia in April released Trevor Reed, a former US Navy SEAL. Instead, the US freed Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who had been in prison for 20 years in the US on drug charges.