Oct 16, 2022 - World

Kremlin "not concerned about" Brittney Griner's release, Putin aide says

US basketball player Brittney Griner stands in a defendants' cage before a court hearing during her trial on charges of drug smuggling, in Khimki, outside Moscow on August 2.

U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner stands in defendants' cage before a court hearing during her trial on drug charges in Khimki, outside Moscow, in August. Photo: Evgenia Novozhennia/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

WNBA star Brittney Griner's release from prison in Russia is not a priority for the Kremlin, an aide to Russian leader Vladimir Putin said Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden and U.S. officials have pushed for the release of Griner, whom a Russian court convicted on drug charges in August. U.S. officials maintain she's been wrongfully detained.

  • Griner's lawyer told the New York Times last Wednesday they're afraid she'll be forced to serve her entire nine-year prison sentence over the charges, which relate to authorities finding vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage.

What they're saying: "In this tense situation, I think that he is thinking first and foremost about the upcoming midterm elections," said Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov of Biden on Russian TV, according to state news agency TASS.

  • "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."

What we're watching: Griner is awaiting an Oct. 25 appeal date.

  • Representatives for the Biden administration did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

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