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Brittney Griner’s 9-year prison sentence in Russia draws harsh response from Joe Biden

Brittney Griner, Joe Biden

Brittney Griner was found guilty on drug possession and smuggling charges in a courtroom in Russia on Thursday. Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison and a $16,500 fine (1,000,000 rubles). Following the decision in Russia, President Joe Biden released a statement critical of the verdict, calling it “unacceptable” and calling on Russia to “release her immediately,” via CNN’s White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond.

Biden didn’t hold back in his statement, opposing Russia’s decision to “wrongfully” detain Griner, while claiming that his administration will work “tirelessly” to bring Griner and Paul Whelan home to U.S. soil.

The full statement reads:

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”

The official ruling in the Griner trial was handed down on Thursday, sparking outrage from U.S. citizens over what is considered an extremely harsh ruling. Griner faced a maximum of 10 years behind bars, and despite pleading guilty, she received a nine-year sentence.

Brittney Griner was detained on Feb. 17 at an airport near Moscow after Russian officials discovered vape cartridges containing cannabis oil inside her luggage. The six-month trial came to a conclusion on Thursday morning, though it’s clear Biden is not happy with the way things played out.

Biden and the rest of his administration will continue to push for Griner to be returned home to the United States after having proposed a prisoner swap involving Griner, Whelan, and notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.