Russian court gives Brittney Griner nine years on drugs charges | Russia-Ukraine war News

BREAKING,

The WNBA star was arrested at a Moscow airport in February with vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her baggage.

A Russian court docket has discovered US basketball star Brittney Griner responsible of drug smuggling, and sentenced her to 9 years in jail in a case that has reached the very best ranges of United States-Russia diplomacy.

The court docket “discovered the defendant responsible” of smuggling and possessing “a major quantity of narcotics”, choose Anna Sotnikova informed a court docket within the city of Khimki simply outdoors Moscow.

The court docket additionally fined her a million rubles ($16,300).

US President Joe Biden was fast to sentence the decision, calling it “unacceptable” and renewing his requires the participant’s launch.

“My administration will proceed to work tirelessly and pursue each attainable avenue to deliver Brittney and Paul Whelan dwelling safely as quickly as attainable,” he stated, referring to a different American imprisoned in Russia on an espionage conviction.

Sotnikova had stated on Thursday that Griner dedicated the crime “intentionally”. However Griner had testified in the course of the trial it was a mistake.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a Girls’s Nationwide Basketball Affiliation (WNBA) star, was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on February 17 when she entered the nation with vape canisters containing hashish oil.

She known as it an “trustworthy mistake” whereas talking within the courtroom Thursday earlier than sentencing.

“I by no means meant to harm anyone, I by no means meant to place in jeopardy the Russian inhabitants, I by no means supposed to interrupt Russian regulation,” Griner stated  by way of a translator whereas standing within the steel cage reserved for defendants in Russian courtrooms.

She apologised to her household, teammates, and her partner.

Her detention got here one week earlier than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine amid a spike of tensions between Moscow and Washington.

Griner had pleaded responsible when her trial started in July, and stated then she didn’t deliver the canisters into Russia deliberately. Hashish is prohibited in Russia for each medicinal and leisure functions.

Consideration will now flip to the high-stakes risk of a prisoner swap.

In July, the US Division of State designated Griner as “wrongfully detained”, transferring her case below the supervision of its particular presidential envoy for hostage affairs, successfully the federal government’s chief hostage negotiator.

Final week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, urging him to just accept a deal below which Griner and Whelan would go free.

The Lavrov-Blinken name marked the highest-level recognized contact between Washington and Moscow since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine greater than 5 months in the past. The direct outreach over Griner is at odds with US efforts to isolate the Kremlin.

“I do know everyone retains speaking about political pawn and politics, however I hope that’s removed from this courtroom,” Griner stated on Thursday earlier than the choose’s ruling.

Griner, 31, had flown to Russia to hitch her workforce, UMMC Ekaterinburg, for the playoffs after spending time at dwelling within the US. She has performed within the Russian Girls’s Basketball Premier League in the course of the WNBA low season.

In her testimony final week, Griner expressed puzzlement as to how the vape cartridges had ended up in her baggage.

“I nonetheless don’t perceive to today how they ended up in my bag,” she informed the court docket on July 27. “If I needed to guess on how they ended up in my baggage, I used to be in a rush packing.”

US offers Russia ‘substantial’ deal for release of Griner, Whelan | Russia-Ukraine war News

Stories point out that such an alternate might free Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner in alternate for Russian arms seller.

America has put a “substantial proposal on the desk” to facilitate the discharge of US residents Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, each held by Russia in what the US has termed “wrongful detention”, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken mentioned.

Blinken mentioned on Wednesday that he expects to talk with Russian International Minister Sergey Lavrov within the coming days to debate a “high precedence” for the US: the discharge of Griner, a basketball star; and Whelan, a former marine.

“We put a considerable proposal on the desk weeks in the past to facilitate their launch. Our governments have communicated repeatedly and immediately on that proposal, and I’ll use the dialog to observe up personally and, I hope, to maneuver us in direction of a decision,” Blinken advised reporters.

“My hope could be that in talking to International Minister Lavrov, I can advance the efforts to carry them residence,” Blinken mentioned.

“We in fact wish to see those that are wrongfully detained be launched and be capable of return residence. On the identical time, it’s vital that we be capable of implement the worldwide norm in opposition to these arbitrary detentions.”

Based on a CNN report, the US has provided Viktor Bout, a Russian arms seller referred to as the “Service provider of Dying” who was given a 25-year jail sentence by the US in 2012, in alternate for the discharge of Whelan and Griner.

The potential deal is the newest growth in an ongoing US effort to download the discharge of Griner and Whelan, who the US alleges are being wrongfully detained by Russia as tensions develop extra strained following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Griner was jailed in mid-February and has been charged with bringing medicine into Russia after authorities discovered vape canisters with hashish oil in her baggage on the Moscow airport. For his half, Whelan was taken into custody in December 2018 and charged with espionage. He was convicted and sentenced to a 16-year jail sentence.

The US has acknowledged that each Whelan and Griner are being improperly detained, and have labored to safe their launch.

Griner is at the moment on trial and testified earlier than a Khimki District Court docket outdoors of Moscow on Wednesday, stating that her rights weren’t learn to her when she was detained on the Moscow airport.

Griner, 31, mentioned she was advised to signal paperwork with none rationalization and a language interpreter relayed solely a portion of her detailed responses throughout interrogation following her arrest on the airport.

The WNBA All-Star has beforehand acknowledged that she introduced vape canisters with hashish oil into the nation, noting that she had approval from a physician to make use of them for an damage and packed them into her suitcase unintentionally. If that argument fails to persuade Russian officers, she might withstand 10 years in jail. In a letter to Biden, Griner mentioned that she was “terrified” and urged him to safe her launch.

Six court docket classes have been held since Griner’s trial started on July 1, and Russia has prolonged her detainment till mid-December.

Russian officers have expressed displeasure with the US declare that the Russian judicial system is just not neutral and that Griner and Whelan are “wrongfully detained” and have pushed again in opposition to recommendations that Griner’s detention was politically motivated.

Tensions between the US and Russia, lengthy strained, have additional deteriorated since Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine in February. The US has accused Russia of struggle crimes, and has sought to bolster Ukraine with billions of {dollars} in weapons shipments and sanctions which have devastated the Russian financial system.

“What the world has heard lately from Russia’s leaders is elevating new alarms,” Blinken mentioned throughout his remarks on Wednesday.

“Final week International Minister Lavrov mentioned that the Kremlin’s targets in Ukraine had expanded. Now they search to assert extra Ukrainian territory past the Donbas. That is the newest in a sequence of evolving justifications and ever-shifting targets.”

Trial of WNBA star Brittney Griner begins in Russia | Russia-Ukraine war News

Washington considers Griner ‘wrongfully detained’ and has referred to as for her launch.

The trial of United States skilled basketball participant Brittney Griner, who was arrested in Russia in February after authorities discovered vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her baggage, has begun in Moscow.

Griner, a Girls’s Nationwide Basketball Affiliation (WNBA) all star and two-time Olympic gold medallist, arrived at a courtroom on the outskirts of the Russian capital on Friday for the trial, through which she faces as much as 10 years in jail.

Arriving at Khimki Metropolis Court docket in handcuffs, the 31-year-old athlete wore a T-shirt displaying guitar icon Jimi Hendrix and was accompanied by three folks. US embassy employees have been in attendance on the proceedings. Cameras weren’t permitted within the court docket.

The US State Division has labelled Griner “wrongfully detained” and is negotiating for her launch amid tanked relations with Russia within the wake of its invasion of Ukraine. Griner’s arrest got here simply days earlier than Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into the neighbouring nation on February 24.

On Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the case was politically motivated.

“I can solely function with identified details, and the details point out that the eminent athlete was detained with unlawful medication that contained narcotic substances. There are articles in Russian laws that present for punishment for such crimes,” he informed reporters.

“Solely the court docket can cross a verdict.”

Griner’s detention has prompted considerations that Moscow may use the athlete to hunt the discharge of a high-profile Russian in US custody, with Senator Tim Kaine warning the ahead for the Phoenix Mercury might be used as a “negotiating chip”.

A few of Griner’s supporters have referred to as on the US to supply such a swap.

Excessive-profile figures throughout the sports activities world have additionally referred to as for Griner’s launch, with NBA gamers sporting T-shirts that say “We’re BG” at some video games.

WNBA gamers, who’re paid significantly lower than their male counterparts, are sometimes provided profitable contracts by the Russian Girls’s Basketball Premier League to play through the US low season.

Some have now left the Russian league, amid Griner’s detention and Russia’s army intervention in Ukraine.

US officers say Griner is considered one of two residents wrongfully detained by Russia. Paul Whelan, a former US marine, has been held in Russia since 2018 after being convicted of spying. He has denied the allegation.