American basketball player Brittney Griner, jailed in Russia in what the U.S. calls a wrongful detention, is being moved to a penal colony, her attorneys said Wednesday.
"We do not have any information on her exact current location or her final destination," her attorneys, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a statement.
Griner, a center for the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February, after Russian authorities said they found vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage.
Griner, 32, was sentenced to nine years in prison in August; a Russian court upheld the sentence last month after her lawyers appealed.
U.S. officials consider Griner to be unlawfully detained. National security adviser Jake Sullivan has characterized the court proceedings as a sham.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the government continues to work for her release.
“Every minute that Brittney Griner must endure wrongful detention in Russia is a minute too long,” Jean-Pierre said in a statement Wednesday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the transfer of Griner was "another injustice layered on her ongoing unjust and wrongful detention."
"As we work to secure Brittney Griner’s release, we expect Russian authorities to provide our Embassy officials with regular access to all U.S. citizens detained in Russia, including Brittney, as is their obligation," Blinken said.
Griner’s legal team said she was moved from a detention center in Iksha, north of Moscow, on Friday.
Standard Russian procedure is that her attorneys and the U.S. Embassy should be notified when Griner reaches her destination, the lawyers said — but that is done through mail, which can take two weeks.
More coverage of Brittney Griner's detention
- Griner faces difficult conditions at Russian penal colony, former prisoners and advocates say
- Russian court denies Brittney Griner’s appeal of 9-year prison sentence
- U.S. officials met with Brittney Griner in Russia, State Department says
- It's not uncommon for WNBA players like Brittney Griner to compete in Russia. Here's why they do it.
Griner pleaded guilty in July but said she'd packed hurriedly for a flight and brought the canisters to Russia unintentionally.
Griner treated injuries with medical cannabis, her attorneys argued at the trial. Cannabis, whether for medical or recreational purposes, is illegal in Russia. In the U.S., cannabis is legal for medical purposes in most states.
"Our primary concern continues to be BG’s health and well-being," Griner's agent, Lindsay Colas, said in Wednesday's statement. "As we work through this very difficult phase of not knowing exactly where BG is or how she is doing, we ask for the public’s support in continuing to write letters and express their love and care for her."
Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and seven-time WNBA all-star. She had been in Russia to play with a Russian Premier League women’s team, UMMC Ekaterinburg, which she has done since 2014.
She was detained in February, about a week before Russia launched an unprovoked attack on Ukraine, which has further strained issues between Russia and the U.S.
The U.S. has proposed an exchange for Griner and another American jailed in Russia, Paul Whelan, for a convicted Russian arms dealer imprisoned in the U.S., Viktor Bout, sources have said.
Jean-Pierre said Wednesday that the U.S. "made a significant offer to the Russians to resolve the current unacceptable and wrongful detentions of American citizens."
"In the subsequent weeks, despite a lack of good faith negotiation by the Russians, the U.S. Government has continued to follow up on that offer and propose alternative potential ways forward with the Russians through all available channels," she said.