The vape cartridges threw the Texan athlete into the geopolitical maelstrom triggered when Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24.
In the most strained US-Russian relations since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, US President Joe Biden is under pressure to intervene on behalf of Americans held in Russia.
The US pushed Moscow to accept a deal that aims to secure the release Griner and another Americans.
“It’s a serious proposal. We urge them to accept it. They should have accepted it weeks ago when we first made it,” said White House national security spokesperson John Kirby, without offering details.
Washington has offered to exchange Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25 year-prison sentence in the United States, for Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan, sources familiar with the situation have told Reuters.
Russia had tried to add convicted murderer Vadim Krasikov, who is in prison in Germany, to the proposed swap, a source familiar with the proceedings also told Reuters.
When asked on Thursday if Washington would be willing to reconsider Russia’s request following Griner’s sentencing, Kirby dismissed it: “I don’t think we go so far as to even call it a counter-offer.”
Whelan, who holds American, British, Canadian and Irish passports, was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in jail in Russia after being convicted of spying.
WNBA players, coaches and fans locked arms and tried to send the basketball star strength during a moment of silence.
Before the Connecticut Sun beat Griner’s team the Phoenix Mercury 77-64, players from both teams silently bowed their heads for 42 seconds — a nod to Griner’s jersey number.
“Nobody wanted to even play today,” said Phoenix guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, who scored 16 points to lead the Mercury. “How are you supposed to approach the game and court with a clear mind? The whole group is crying before the game. You try to honour her and still play hard for her. Regardless of whether she’s here or not. Right now, we still got to try and keep her spirit alive.”
Earlier, Biden said his administration would continue to work for Griner’s release.
“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,” Biden said in a statement.
“It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates.”
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