August 17, 2022

Nothing about Thursday’s proceedings in a Russian court, where WNBA star Britney Grenier was on trial on drug-trafficking charges, surprised experts familiar with the legal proceedings in Russia. Greiner was convicted and sentenced to nine years in a criminal colony – just one year shy of the maximum sentence.

Her conviction was believed to be a formality and a prerequisite for a prisoner exchange that might lead to her return to the United States.

Jonathan Franks, who worked with Trevor R. Russia in April. Reade was also sentenced to nine years in prison after being convicted of assault, a charge his family deemed false and politically motivated.

“One thing Americans should realize is that we’re dealing with thugs,” Franks said. People who take our people hostage or hold them unjustly, it’s just state-sponsored kidnapping. They are thugs. Sometimes, in order to attract the attention of thugs, they only understand force.”

Last week, the US State Department said it had made a “substantial offer” to the Russian government for Graner and Paul N. Whelan, an American who has been detained in Russia since 2018. Whelan was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Prison. But now that Greiner’s trial is over, experts said it will require more patience from those who support it. After US Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinkin publicly said the United States had offered a deal to Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, reporters That the prisoner exchange was quietly negotiated.

“There is no incentive for Russia to render any service to the United States,” said William Pomeranz, acting director of the Kennan Institute and expert on Russian law.

“I am not optimistic that the diplomatic deal will take place any time soon,” he said, referring to Peskov’s statement and the poor relations between the two countries due to the war in Ukraine.

Greiner has been held in Russia since February 17 when Russian customs officials at an airport near Moscow said they found cannabis oil, a cannabis derivative, in an e-cigarette pen in her luggage. The US State Department announced in May that it considered Greiner an “unjustly held,” meaning her case would be handled by the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. The State Department said it would work to secure her release regardless of how her trial ended.

In both the United States and Russia, colleagues and Griner’s coaches lent their support. Members of her Russian team, UMMC Yekaterinburg, testified on Griner’s behalf during her trial.

In the United States, several WNBA players who also played in Russia coordinated a social media campaign on Wednesday, a day before her trial ended.

Nika Ogomec, President of the WNBA Players Association, Post a picture on Instagram About herself playing for her Russian team, Dinamo Kursk.

“Like me, she has fond memories of her time playing and has come back year after year to compete in Russia,” Ogomek wrote. She added, “I ask you in honor of all our great experiences competing in Russia and around the world, out of love and humanity, to show her compassion and understanding. Please be kind to Britney Greiner.”

Although the players’ pleas do not appear to influence the actions, they have value in showing solidarity with Greiner and her UMMC Yekaterinburg teammates who have spoken on her behalf, said Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon, a Russian historian who consulted with the players. The guild while Griner was detained.

“Britney’s Russian colleagues and coach, those who testified on her behalf in Russia are really putting themselves at risk because Russia recently passed stricter laws on cooperation with foreigners,” said Saint Julian-Varnon. She said the WNBA players’ public statements were “give them a nod and say they appreciate what they’ve done.”

Saint Julian Farnon began advising the union shortly after Grenier’s arrest. She said early on that she told players to expect a long process, that they should not expect Griner to be released before her trial, and that even if her sentence was light, that meant at least five years.

Now that Grenier has been convicted, Saint Julian-Farnon still urges caution.

“This does not mean that she will participate in a prisoner exchange any time soon,” she said. “Just keep that in mind because this is still a process, but it is the next step in the process. It could take weeks. It could take months. A lot of it depends on Russia.”

Terry Jackson, executive director of the WNBA Players Association, said Greiner’s conviction won’t change the way players support them. For several months, they spoke out and made other demonstrations of support, such as wearing T-shirts with the initials Griner and the shirt number, 42.

“I feel very sad and sick from Britney and I hope you come home as soon as possible,” said Seattle Storm attacker Brianna Stewart, who has played for Greiner in Russia four times. “Now that the trial is over and the verdict is out, I know she must be in a very emotional state and I just want her to know that we’re still doing everything we can to get her home.”

When asked if the NBA and WNBA would change anything about their tactics, NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said both leagues would continue to support the State Department, the White House “and other allies in and out of government in an effort to bring Britney home ASAP.” maybe.”

The strained relationship between the United States and Russia did not subside in the months following Greiner’s arrest. Imprisoned shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States sent military equipment to Ukraine in its war against Russia. On Monday, the White House said it would send an additional $550 million in weapons to Ukraine for war.

St Julian-Varnon said that could hamper negotiations on Grenier’s release, which is not a problem for Russia. “It only harms the credibility of the Biden administration,” she said. “There is no incentive for Russia to do anything right away.”

This position probably will not resonate with Grenier’s supporters. Paris Hatcher is the CEO of Black Feminist Future, a social justice organization that created the hashtag #BringBrittneyHome campaign. She said her initial enthusiasm about a possible prisoner exchange with Greiner dissipated after Thursday’s ruling.

Hatcher said the organization will consider options to keep Grenier’s case at the forefront of politicians’ minds.

“Does that mean we’ll be communicating with the elected officials we’ve been talking to about the critical nature of this issue?” Hatcher said. “Often, you don’t have enough information. Now, you have the information. Whatever was making you hesitate, six months have passed.”

And Hatcher added, “Whatever exchange needs to happen, let it happen. Do it.”

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