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U.S. Embassy officials meet with Brittney Griner, WNBA star imprisoned in Russia

U.S. diplomats granted access to Brittney Griner
U.S. diplomats granted access to Brittney Griner 00:25

U.S. Embassy officials in Moscow on Thursday met with WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been held behind bars in Russia since February, the Biden administration said. 

Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison for drug possession in August, and her appeal was recently rejected by a Russian court. 

"We are told she's doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One.

State Department spokesman Ned Price also confirmed the meeting, tweeting that U.S. officials "saw firsthand her tenacity and perseverance despite her present circumstances." 

Jean-Pierre said the U.S. continues to press Russia to release Griner and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Paul Whelan, who was sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison on espionage charges that his family have called a setup. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in July that the U.S. had made a "substantial proposal" for the release of Griner and Whelan. 

"I can also tell you that in the subsequent weeks, 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," Jean-Pierre said. "This continues to be a top priority." 

Griner, a two-time U.S. Olympic champion and eight-time WNBA all-star, was arrested in February after arriving in Russia with vape cartridges that contained cannabis oil. At trial in August, Griner said she "never meant to hurt anybody, to put in jeopardy the Russian population or violate any Russian laws." Her arrest and conviction came amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and the Kremlin over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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