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Britney Griner sentenced to nine years in Russia for drug charges

Basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison after being convicted of drug charges in a Moscow court on Thursday. I was.

After closing arguments in a lengthy trial highlighting worsening relations between the United States and Russia since the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine, the prosecutor said she sought nine and a half years in prison.

Griner pleaded guilty to last month and was sentenced to her longest sentence of 10 years. In a final lenient plea on Thursday, an emotional Grina apologized and reiterated that he had never intended to break Russian law but had made an "honest mistake." Anna Sotnikova has returned to announce that she has been found guilty of drug possession and smuggling.

Attention will be focused on the possibility of a prisoner exchange between Washington and Moscow after Thursday's verdict. U.S. officials told NBC News that they don't expect the move to release Griner to move quickly, but they intend to continue pushing the issue.

Griner, 31, was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport in February. Russian authorities said they found vape cans containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

Phoenix Her Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist Greiner has admitted that the canister belongs to her. She unintentionally brought them to Russia, she said. 

One of her lawyers, Alexander Boykov, told reporters during the trial that Ms. 

The Kremlin has been accused of using Griner as a political pawn, and the Biden administration has faced pressure from her family and teammates to release her.

The US government is serving 16-year sentences for espionage charges in exchange for convicted Russians Paul Whelanand Griner proposed to Moscow to release . According to two of her sources familiar with the matter, arms dealer Viktor Bout.

White House Press Secretary Carine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday that Russia had responded "viciously" to the US government's offer. "We don't see it as a serious counteroffer," she said. Did — the highest level of diplomatic relations between the two countries since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February — the Kremlin accepts the US offer. Blinken called it "a candid, candid conversation" but avoided characterizing Lavrov's reaction.

The Russians responded by urging the United States to refrain from speculation and instead pursue "quiet diplomacy."

AprilFormer U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, who was released from a Russian prison in 2011, previously said he believed the White House had not done enough to free Griner. Had and Whelan.

In May, the State Department reclassified Griner as "wrongfully detained" and transferred oversight of her case to the President's Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Griner was being heldas a hostage

. President Joe Biden spoke with Griner's wife, Sherrel Griner, last month. He also sent a direct letter after Griner sent a handwritten note asking for help in freeing her. 

Image: Brittney Griner
Following his arrest on drug charges, growing calls for Washington to do more to secure Griner's release for nearly five months.Alexander Zemlyanichenko/AP

On Thursday, Griner was handcuffed to a cage inside the courtroom, wearing a gray shirt. Before proceedings began, she showed a photo of a teammate from a Russian club she played for in the WNBA offseason.

Prosecutors considered her guilt fully proven and demanded that Griner be sentenced to nine and a half years in prison and a fine of one million rubles ($16,590), which her lawyer Maria Bragovolina called "absurd." } Her defense team questioned some of the expert analysis used in the case and said Griner did not have access to a suitable interpreter during her arrest.

Her attorney reiterated that Griner used cannabis only for medical purposes and had never used it in Russia. , called for Griner to be acquitted or sentenced as leniently as possible.

When Griner addressed the court after the closing arguments, fans, family members and teammates may have heard what she had to say. Her voice trembled as she apologized for any possible embarrassment or harm she called the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, where she played, her second home. she said. "I did not intend to endanger the Russian population. I did not intend to break the law here."

At an earlier hearing, her legal team The 6-foot-9 Griner, who, like many other international athletes, plays for Russian Ural mining and metallurgical company Yekaterinburg, claimed:

Greiner's legal team, who uses medicinal marijuanain the off-season to ease the pain of her injuries, believes Roller's image as a model and global tried to build her defense on the basis of her positive contributions to basketball.