Brittney Griner’s nine-year jail sentence ‘compounds the injustice’ towards her, Secretary of State Antony Blinken says

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the nine-year sentence given to WNBA star Brittney Griner “compounds the injustice” she has gone by in Russia since her arrest earlier this 12 months.

“It puts a spotlight on our very significant turn with Russia’s legal system and the Russian government’s use of wrongful detentions to advance its own agenda using individuals as political pawns,” Blinken stated Friday at a gathering with the Affiliation of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia.

Griner was convicted Thursday and sentenced to 9 years in jail and fined 1 million rubles (about $16,700). She had been arrested Feb. 17 at a Moscow airport after vape cartridges containing hashish oil have been present in her baggage.

The decision and sentencing have been anticipated steps towards a swap to deliver Griner again to the United States, as Russia was not going to maneuver ahead with a commerce till her trial was accomplished.

Russian Overseas Minister Sergey Lavrov appeared to verify that Friday when he stated Russia was prepared to debate a prisoner swap in non-public. Lavrov stated President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden had beforehand agreed on a diplomatic channel that ought to be used to barter a doable change.

“We are ready to discuss this topic, but within the framework of the channel that was agreed upon by presidents Putin and Biden,” Lavrov stated in Cambodia. “If the Americans decide to once again resort to public diplomacy … that is their business and I would even say that it is their problem.”

Blinken has instructed the potential for a prisoner swap for Griner and one other American jailed in Russia, Paul Whelan. Sources have informed ESPN’s T.J. Quinn {that a} deal would additionally contain convicted Russian arms supplier Viktor Bout, who’s serving a 25-year jail time period within the United States.

White Home nationwide safety spokesperson John Kirby stated Thursday after Griner’s sentencing that the United States had made Russia a critical proposal with out offering additional element.

“We urge them to accept it,” Kirby stated. “They should have accepted it weeks ago when we first made it.”

Russia and the United States staged a prisoner swap in April, buying and selling former Marine Trevor Reed for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was serving a 20-year sentence within the United States. American officers had sought that change after Reed was reported to be ill, and it was considered as an indication by Griner’s supporters of an open diplomatic channel between the 2 international locations.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to touch upon the courtroom’s ruling on Griner. Requested whether or not she might be pardoned, he stated that the clemency process was coded in Russian legal guidelines.

Griner’s protection attorneys have additionally they’d attraction. The protection workforce stated that in sentencing, the courtroom had ignored all proof it had introduced and Griner’s responsible plea.

Biden referred to as Griner’s sentence “unacceptable” on Thursday and referred to as on Russia “to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.”

The Related Press and Reuters contributed to this report.