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‘Welcome To Hell,’ Brittney Griner Moved To Hard Labor Camp

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


WNBA Star Brittney Griner has gotten devastating news from Russia as her punishment for being caught with cannabis has now increased.

The American prisoner has been moved to a penal colony where the sign on the facility, translated, reads “Welcome To Hell,” The Daily Mail reported.

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Griner has been moved to IK-2 in Yavas, one of several penal colonies in the region, according to Reuters. 

A State Department Spokesperson could not confirm that report to DailyMail.com, saying that Russia has refused to share any details with the US Embassy…

Griner was sentenced in August following her February arrest at an airport in Moscow, when Russian authorities say she was caught entering the country with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. She had been at a detention center near Moscow until November 4, when she was moved to an undisclosed prison.

It has been two weeks since any information about her whereabouts have surfaced.

Founded for the Soviet gulag system in 1931, Yavas remains one of the largest hubs in the Russian network of prisons and penal colonies. It currently has three institutions, including a women’s colony, a men’s colony, and a co-ed colony. 

“We are aware of reports of her location, and in frequent contact with Ms. Griner’s legal team,” a State Department spokesperson said.. “However, the Russian Federation has still failed to provide any official notification for such a move of a US citizen, which we strongly protest. The Embassy has continued to press for more information about her transfer and current location.”

“Every minute that Brittney Griner must endure wrongful detention in Russia is a minute too long. As the Administration continues to work tirelessly to secure her release, the President has directed the Administration to prevail on her Russian captors to improve her treatment and the conditions she may be forced to endure in a penal colony. As we have said before, the U.S. Government 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. The U.S. Government is unwavering in its commitment to its work on behalf of Brittney and other Americans detained in Russia – including fellow wrongful detainee Paul Whelan, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

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“Griner will face harsh conditions in the forced labor camp, and it will be difficult for her family to contact her or even know her exact location. According to her agent Lindsay Colas, Griner’s team is in close contact with the U.S. government and the Richardson Center, an organization that works to release American detainees,” Fox News said.

“Our primary concern continues to be BG’s [Brittney Griner’s] health and well-being,” he agent said.

“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,” she said.

In October Griner got devastating news again from a Russian court in her bid to get back to the United States. A Russian appeals court denied her appeal of the nine-and-a-half-year sentence she got for having vape pens with cannabis, The New York Times reported:

A Russian court on Tuesday upheld the American basketball star Brittney Griner’s sentence on drug smuggling charges, clearing the way for her to serve nine years in a penal colony unless the U.S. government can negotiate a deal for her release. Ms. Griner’s lawyers said before the hearing on Tuesday that she did “not expect any miracles to happen,” but that she was hopeful that the three-judge panel of the appeals court in Krasnogorsk, near Moscow, would reduce her sentence. 

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While the court’s decision means Ms. Griner will begin serving her sentence soon, it was not immediately clear if her legal options were exhausted. There are two higher courts above the appellate division, culminating in the Supreme Court, but Ms. Griner’s lawyers have yet to confirm whether they will take the case any further. But the higher courts in Russia are not known for negating lower court decisions the way they are in the United States.

“Brittney is a very strong person and has a champion’s character,” her attorneys said on Monday. “She of course has her highs and lows as she is severely stressed being separated from her loved ones for over eight months.”

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