Exclusive: Brittney Griner taken to penal colony in Russia’s Mordovia region

Nov 17 (Reuters) – US basketball player Brittney Griner, who has been jailed for nine years in Russia after being found guilty of drug charges, has been transferred to a prison 500 kilometers (300 miles) south. east of Moscow, his lawyers said Thursday.

Griner was sentenced in August after being arrested at Moscow airport in February with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in his bag. He was transferred to a prison near Moscow on Nov. 4 to take him to an unknown prison.

Her legal team, confirming a recent Reuters report, said Griner was taken to the Female Penal Colony IK-2 in the town of Yavas in the Mordovia region.

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“We can confirm that Brittney began serving her sentence at IK-2 in Mordovia. We visited her earlier this week,” said deputies Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boikov in a statement.

“Brittney is doing as well as we could hope and trying to stay strong as she adjusts to the new environment,” they continued.

Mordovia is the region where an American, Paul Whelan, is serving a 16-year prison sentence after being found guilty of espionage charges he denies.

Asked about Griner’s case before a statement from lawyers, a US State Department spokesman said: “We are aware of the reports of her whereabouts, and we are in regular contact with Ms. Griner’s legal team.

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“However, the Russian Federation still failed to provide any such information to the US citizen, which we strongly oppose.”

Prisoners in Russian prisons have to work long hours for little pay at manual labor jobs such as sewing. Former prisoners and human rights groups describe the conditions as harsh and disgusting, with no medical care.

Russia and the United States have discussed exchanging Griner and Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, for a Russian arms dealer arrested in the United States, but no agreement has been reached amid heightened tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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At his trial, Griner – who played basketball for the Russian national team during the US offseason – said he used marijuana to relieve a sports injury but did not intend to break the law. He told the court that he made a serious mistake in packing the cartridges in his bag.

Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; written by Mark Trevelyan; Edited by Toby Chopra, David Ljunggren and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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