Putin aide says Russia is not prioritizing the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner

Putin aide says Russia is not prioritizing the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner
  • A close aide to Vladimir Putin said that Brittney Griner's release is not Russia's "main issue."

  • The aide also said that he didn't believe US President Joe Biden is prioritizing her release.

  • Griner has been wrongfully detained in Russia on drug smuggling charges for the last eight months.

An aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a recent interview on Russian state TV that releasing American WNBA player Brittney Griner from a Russian prison is not the "main issue" for Russia.

Griner was arrested at the Moscow airport in February of this year. According to a New York Times report, Griner — who has been wrongfully detained on drug smuggling charges for over eight months — has been moved to a penal colony with notably harsh conditions.

According to the Guardian, Putin's close aide and the former Russian Ambassador to the US Yury Ushakov stated in an interview with Rossiya-1 that Griner's release was not the country's "main issue."

He also claimed that Biden was only mentioning her due to the US midterm elections.

"In this tense situation, I think that he is thinking first and foremost about the upcoming midterm elections so he keeps emphasizing the need to bring back home the basketball player who was detained for drug smuggling. However, it's not the main issue that we are concerned about," Ushako told Rossiya-1.

Biden has spoken about Griner's release in public on multiple occasions and met with her family in September, after writing the basketball star a letter in July. The Biden administration also previously proposed a prisoner swap of Griner and Paul Whelan for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is jailed in the US.

The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

According to the Guardian, Biden has said that he would speak with Putin at the G20 summit if he were open to releasing Griner.

"Look, I have no intention of meeting with him," Biden said. "But, for example, if he came to me at the G20 and said, 'I want to talk about the release of Griner,' I would meet with him."

Griner appealed her nine-year sentence after it was delivered in August. According to The Times, throughout her detention, Griner has been confined to too small of a bed and fluctuating temperatures due to difficult weather conditions, and her health has suffered.

Griner's wife Cherelle told CBS News recently that during a "disturbing phone call" with Griner, the WNBA star was struggling to find the motivation to keep fighting the charges and her detention.

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