Lawyers for WNBA superstar Brittney Griner have revealed that they are unsure of the 32-year-old’s location in Russia following a failed attempt at appealing her nine-year sentence on drug smuggling charges.
Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov told reporters that while they believe Griner is being transported to a penal colony in the country, it’s unclear where she is and where she is headed. The transfer process can take several weeks.
The lawyers stated, “We do not have any information on her exact current location or her final destination. In accordance with the standard Russian procedure, the attorneys, as well as the U.S. Embassy, should be notified upon her arrival at her destination. Notification is given via official mail and normally takes up to two weeks to be received.”
This update follows a visit paid to Griner on November 3, 2022, by officials from the US Embassy in Moscow. It’s believed that the transfer process began the next day, November 4, 2022.
The family of Paul Whelan, an American who is currently also unlawfully detained in Russia, has offered up his experience as insight into what Griner might be going through right now. Whelan’s brother David Whelan said of Russian prisoners, “They disappear off the face of the earth.”
The family also states that if the process is similar to what Paul Whelan went through, Griner will be “placed in a small, windowless railroad car with no information about her destination. She will have no communication with her legal team, U.S. officials or her family.”
It’s believed that Griner could be taken to a type of transition camp at first, and the entire process of arriving from one place to the final destination can take a month. There is a lot of mystery surrounding Russian penal colonies, though some firsthand accounts paint a dark picture of what Griner might experience.
Griner will be placed at a female-only colony, though that doesn’t mean anything about the experience is expected to be easy for her. It’s assumed that she might be given a physically demanding job because of her height. Former prisoners have detailed their experiences in similar colonies as including “a lack of regular medical care, long stretches in isolation for seemingly innocuous offenses, bitterly cold and uncomfortable conditions, plank-like beds and severely limited contact with the outside world.”
Several who know and love Griner are concerned for how she will hold up while in prison. Griner has been open about what attending therapy has added to her life, and her wife Cherelle has revealed that Griner is struggling. Cherelle recently said that Griner is “at her absolute weakest moment in life right now … she’s saying things to me like, ‘my life just don’t even matter no more.'”