Britney Greiner heads to a penal colony. What’s next for a WNBA star?
Britney Grenier’s Russian nightmare continues as US Olympic and WNBA star begins her long journey to a Russian penal colony, where she is expected to serve a nine-year prison sentence unless the United States can negotiate her release.
Early Wednesday morning, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken chirp“We strongly protest the relocation of Britney Greiner to a remote penal colony and the Russian government’s use of unlawful detentions. I am committed to bringing Britney Greiner and Paul Whelan home as soon as possible.”
Greiner was originally detained in mid-February and accused of carrying e-cigarette cartridges with cannabis oil in her bag while returning to Moscow to play for her Russian professional team UMMC Ekaterinburg. Like many other WNBA stars looking for a big payday, Griner has played in Russia for nearly a decade.
Greiner, who turned 32 last month, pleaded guilty to drug charges but told the court “there was no intent” and that she had mistakenly filled the cartridges. She was sentenced to nine years in prison, which experts said is an unusually harsh punishment even given Russia’s strict drug laws.
Where is Britney Greiner?
In short, no one knows exactly where Griner is now located. According to her legal team, she left a detention center in the Moscow region on November 4 and is on her way to a penal colony. But no one except Russian officials – who don’t share details – knows exactly where Griner is going and when she will get there. Transfer to the Russian criminal colonies can take up to several weeks. Its legal team expects it to be notified when it reaches its final destination, but said the notification is sent via official mail, or regular mail, and “usually takes up to two weeks.”
The family of Whelan, another American currently being held illegally by Russia, told USA TODAY that during transportation, Griner will be placed in a small, windowless railroad car with no information on its destination. She will not be in contact with her legal team, US officials, or her family.
“They’ve disappeared off the face of the earth,” Paul Whelan’s brother, David Whelan, described to USA TODAY.
Why was Britney Greiner moved?
Moving to a penal colony was always on Griner’s schedule. After her conviction in early August, Greiner was sentenced to nine years in a criminal colony. She lost her appeal last month – an expected but necessary step in the negotiation process in hopes of her release – and was expected to be transferred to a penal colony within weeks.
It’s possible that Griner will first be transferred to a transition camp of some sort, as was the case with Whelan, but that information won’t be known for weeks. The actual conversion will likely take about a month.
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More about hemp: The use of Britney Graner is considered normal in America. But Russia’s drug laws are “too harsh”.
timetable: What Happened Since the WNBA Star Was Arrested
What is life like in a Russian penal colony?
Little is known about life in the Russian criminal colonies to the public, although the available information paints a bleak picture.
Prisoners are often located there in remote regions of Russia, and usually perform hard labor for little pay. According to the Center for Oriental Studies, most penal colonies have problems with running water and heating.
Greiner will go to a women-only penal colony, but little is known about women’s prisons in Russia. Former prisoners spoke publicly of the lack of regular medical care, of long periods of isolation from seemingly harmless crimes, bitter cold and uncomfortable conditions, clapboard beds, and extremely limited contact with the outside world. The Griner, due to her build and strength, will likely get a physically demanding job.
How is Britney Grenier’s mental health?
Greiner, who has spoken publicly about the important role therapy has played in her life, is often described as “working as best as can be expected.” But her wife Cheryl, who has given quite a few interviews since Britney’s arrest, recently told CBS that Britney is “in her weakest moment ever in life right now…she’s telling me things like, ‘My life doesn’t matter to me any more.'” Cheryl Greiner called a recent conversation “the most annoying phone call I’ve ever had.”
In a statement, Griner’s agent, Lindsay Colas, said, “Our primary concern continues to be BG’s health and well-being… We ask for the public’s support in continuing to write letters and express their love and care for her.”
What are the next steps?
Since this summer, US officials have been engaged in talks with Russian authorities, trying to find a solution – possibly a prisoner exchange – to bring Greiner and Whelan home. Several outlets, including the Associated Press, reported that the United States had offered Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner and Whelan. Butt, nicknamed “The Merchant of Death,” is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States after being convicted in 2011 on terrorism charges.
Bleiken, the secretary of state, and other officials in the Biden administration were adamant that they continue to work for the freedom of Greiner and Whelan.
White House Press Secretary Karen-Jean-Pierre said: “Every minute that Britney Grenier has to endure unlawful detention in Russia takes one minute. As we have said before, the US government has made an important show for the Russians to solve the current problem. The unacceptable and unlawful arrests of citizens Americans.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
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