American basketball star Brittney Griner has been sent to a Russian penal colony, her lawyers confirmed overnight.
Most prisons in Russia are penal colonies. They are known for their brutality, poor hygiene, and exposure to Russian propaganda.
Here’s what you need to know.
Griner travelled to Russia to play professional basketball on a part-time basis. She arrived in February, one week before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Cannabis oil – an illegal substance in Russia – was found in Griner’s luggage upon arrival. She pleaded guilty to the drug charges, but said there was “no intent” to break the law.
Griner, who has been a WNBA All-Star and won two Olympic gold medals, was found guilty of drug charges in August and sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison.
Griner has now been ordered to serve her sentence in a Russian penal colony.
This week, Griner’s lawyers confirmed she is being transported from a Moscow jail to a penal colony. The transfer began on Friday, though Griner’s representatives weren’t notified until Tuesday.
They don’t know which prison she is going to, and don’t expect to know for up to two weeks.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Griner’s transfer to a penal colony was “another injustice layered on her ongoing unjust and wrongful detention”.
The WNBA Players Association said they were “crushed” by news of Griner’s transfer, and that a “lack of clarity and transparency in the process compounds the pain”.
There has been talks of a ‘prisoner exchange’ with Russia, which would allow Griner to return to the U.S. in exchange for Russian prisoners held in American prisons.
The U.S. has made previous offers to Russia regarding a prison exchange.
U.S. President Joe Biden said he hoped Russian President Vladimir Putin would be “willing to talk more seriously about a prisoner exchange” with U.S. officials now that the midterm elections are over.