WNBA star Brittney Griner arrives at Russian penal colony after unannounced transfer from detention center: report

Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, sits inside a defendants’ cage after the court’s verdict during a hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, on August 4, 2022. (EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner has reportedly been moved to a women’s penal colony in western Russia, where she will serve out a nine-year prison sentence for drug possession and smuggling.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist arrived at Female Penal Colony IK-2 in Yavas, a small town in the country’s Mordovia region, about 300 miles southeast of Moscow, a source told Reuters in a report Thursday. The news follows two weeks of silence from the Russian government on the athlete’s whereabouts.

On. Nov. 4, Griner was moved without warning from a detention center near Moscow, where she’d been held since her February arrest at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Customs officials say they discovered vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

Griner was accused of intentionally smuggling drugs into the country, where marijuana use is illegal for both medicinal and recreational purposes.

“We are aware of reports of her location, and in frequent contact with Ms. Griner’s legal team,” a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department told Reuters.

“However, the Russian Federation has still failed to provide any official notification for such a move of a U.S. citizen, which we strongly protest. The Embassy has continued to press for more information about her transfer and current location.”

Griner in July pleaded guilty to marijuana possession but has maintained she did not mean to break the law. She claims she mistakenly put the canisters in her suitcase as she rushed to pack to return to Russia, where she plays for the UMMC Ekaterinburg basketball team during the WNBA’s offseason.

A month later, Griner was found guilty on the drug charges, and her final appeal was rejected in late October.

Griner, an eight-time all-star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, was ordered to spend nearly a decade at a Russian penal colony notorious for a lack of hygiene and access to medical care. Inmates are often forced to work long hours for little to no pay.