Brittney Griner begins 9-year sentence in Mordovia penal colony, 350 miles from Moscow

Brittney Griner's legal team confirmed Thursday that the Olympian has begun serving her sentence at the IK-2 penal colony in Mordovia, about 350 miles southeast of Moscow.

Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, Griner’s Russian attorneys, said in a statement, "we visited her early this week. Brittney is doing as well as could be expected and trying to stay strong as she adapts to a new environment. Considering that this is a very challenging period for her, there will be no further comments from us."

Brittney Griner has been moved to a Russian penal colony, according to her legal team.
Brittney Griner has been moved to a Russian penal colony, according to her legal team.

In August, the two-time Olympian and perennial WNBA All-Star was sentenced to nine years after pleading guilty to carrying hash oil in her luggage as she returned to Moscow to play with her Russian professional team. Griner, like many WNBA players, supplements her income by playing pro overseas during the WNBA’s offseason. She has played in Russia for nine years.

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Griner lost her appeal last month, and began transfer to the penal colony early last week. During her transport, Griner’s legal team in Russia, as well as her U.S.-based agency, said they were not informed of her whereabouts.

The Biden Administration — which has classified Griner as wrongfully detained and is trying to negotiate for her release — also was unaware of where Griner was last week.

Griner, who turned 32 last month, was originally detained in February. She had been locked up at a Moscow detention facility until last week.

In a statement, Griner’s agent Lindsay Colas said of Griner, "despite the fact she is alone and now nearing her ninth month in detention separated from her loved ones, she is trying to stay strong."

Another wrongfully detained American, Paul Whelan, is also serving time in a penal colony in the Mordovia area. Whelan, who has been imprisoned in Russia since December 2018, is serving a 16-year sentence after being found guilty of espionage, a charge he and his family have repeatedly denied.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Brittney Griner begins sentence in Russia at Mordovia penal colony