Brittney Griner ‘suffers a lot’ in prison but release is not a priority for Russia

Brittney Griner, the WNBA player who was sentenced to nine years in prison for bringing cannabis oil to Russia, is struggling with the harsh conditions in a Russian penal colony as Moscow signals it will not prioritize the athlete’s release.

Speaking to The New York Times, attorney Alexandr D. Boykov said the 31-year-old basketball star was originally scheduled to sleep in a bed that was way too small for her 6-foot-9 frame before being replaced with a larger bed at the behest of guest journalist Ekaterina Kalugina.

Boykov also said Griner experiences frequent aches and pains in prison, which he describes as a run-down building with fluctuating temperatures. Boykov added Griner is only allowed to shower twice a week and walk around in a “little yard” for an hour every day. All of this, he said, has affected Griner’s well-being.

“She wasn’t in as good condition as I could sometimes find her,” Boykov told the Times, adding that arranging phone calls between Griner and her family had been difficult. “She suffers a lot without her family because she hasn’t seen them for so long and it’s very difficult to talk to them in any way.”

Boykov’s assessment echoed that of Cherelle Griner, Brittney’s wife, who told CBS News she feared the basketball star might not have the mental toughness to continue.

President Joe Biden has been trying to bring Griner home since she was convicted of drug offenses. However, Yury Ushakov, who serves as an adviser to President Vladimir Putin, said Biden is only announcing his attempts to bring the WNBA basketball star home because of the upcoming midterm elections in November.

“In this tense situation, I think his primary concern is the upcoming midterm elections, so he keeps emphasizing the need to bring home the basketball player who was jailed for drug smuggling. However, that is not the main issue that we are concerned about,” Ushakov said on the state TV program Rossiya-1, according to translations by state media TASS.

Ushakov’s remark comes about a week after former US Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson traveled to Russia to speak with Kremlin officials about the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, a former US Marine serving on charges He was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment for espionage. Richardson later suggested they could be released by the end of the year.

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