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Ex-NBA star on mission to Russia

Dennis Rodman wants to try to help secure the release of basketball player Brittney Griner, who was convicted on drug charges

Dennis Rodman, a former NBA star who is also known for his relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, wants to go to Russia to advocate for the release of fellow pro athlete Brittney Griner.

"I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl," Rodman told NBC News on Sunday. "I'm trying to go this week."

Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison earlier this month for trying to bring cannabis oil into Russia, which is illegal in the country. She is in the process of appealing the court ruling.

The US, which has called her detention in Russia unlawful, previously offered to exchange her and another American citizen in Russian custody, former US Marine Paul Whelan. Washington reportedly suggested swapping them for Viktor Bout, who is serving a sentence in the US on gun running charges.

Rodman previously claimed credit for the 2014 early release by North Korea of Korean-American activist Kenneth Bae, who later thanked the celebrity for his intervention.

The basketball great famously made several trips to North Korea, met with the leader, and called him a personal friend. He does not appear to have the same kind of connection with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but claimed in the NBC interview that he knows him "too well."

Rodman previously called Putin "cool as f**k," and claimed the two met and spent time together during the NBA champion's visit to Moscow in 2014.

The US Department of State has discouraged American citizens from visiting Russia in its official travel advisory. It claims they could face "harassment," "arbitrary enforcement of local law," and "wrongful detentions" in the country.

Rodman did not explain whose "permission" he received for the mission, but would need a visa to get past customs.