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On Tuesday night, US President Joe Biden told CNN’s Jake Tapper he would be open to meeting with Vladimir Putin if the Russian president was willing to discuss the release of imprisoned WNBA star Brittney Griner. However, on Wednesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre clarified he would not meet with Putin at the Group of 20 summit next month in Indonesia — even to discuss the release of Griner.
Initially, Biden remarked, “Look, I have no intention of meeting with him, but look, if he came to me at the G20 and said, ‘I want to talk about the release of Griner,’ I would meet with him, but that would depend,” Biden said.
The conflicting statements will offer Griner no comfort as today marks her 238th day inside of a Russian prison. In September, Biden did meet in person with Griner’s wife, Cherelle, to discuss the White House’s continued work efforts to see Griner released.
Biden also told Tapper that there has been no progress from Putin on the possibility of a prisoner exchange between Griner and another American imprisoned in Russia, Paul Whelan.
On February 17, Griner was found guilty of an attempt to smuggle illegal narcotics into Russia, according to her lawyers. The court sentenced her to nine years in prison, a year shy of the 10-year maximum.
She’s been supported by the WNBA throughout her imprisonment, even as a former coach refuses to offer support by merely acknowledging Griner’s incarceration.
#WeAreBG ?#WNBAAllStar pic.twitter.com/fiyI2Cc622
— WNBA (@WNBA) July 10, 2022
Kim Mulkey coached Brittney Griner for 4 years. Griner led one of her teams to an undefeated season and national championship. And Mulkey can’t even bring herself to offer sympathy to Griner’s wife or hope that Griner is safe and will be released soon. What an awful person. https://t.co/uLgOHCLqaN
— Amanda Hoey (@amandahoey) September 26, 2022
Brittney Griner remains concerned about her future
“She has not been in as good condition as I could sometimes find her in,” her lawyer, Alexander D. Boykov, said in a recent interview.
“She is not yet absolutely convinced that America will be able to take her home,” Boykov said, adding that he had spoken to Griner on Tuesday. “She is very worried about what the price of that will be, and she is afraid that she will have to serve the whole sentence here in Russia.”
Griner is allowed outside once a day, Boykov said, during which she walks for an hour in a small courtyard. Griner spends the rest of her time in a small cell with two cellmates, sitting and sleeping on a specially elongated bed to accommodate her 6-foot-9 frame, Boykov told Yahoo News.
Brittney Griner is in her ninth month in detention, with a hearing about the appeal of her conviction scheduled for Oct. 25.