Is Brittney Griner a political pawn? Was her conviction for drug offenses mandated by the Russian authorities? Will she ever be safely returned to the USA?
Rice College political science professor, who focuses on worldwide relations, Richard Stoll addressed these questions throughout an interview with Craig Cohen on Houston Issues on Friday.
As a “very, very optimistic signal” for Griner, Stoll described an announcement by Russian Overseas Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday that his authorities was open to talks a few prisoner swap with the USA. The 31-year-old basketball star from Houston has been in jail in Russia for nearly six months and was sentenced to 9 years in jail on Thursday after being convicted of drug smuggling and possession.
“I do not assume (Lavrov) may exit on his personal and say that. I feel there is a actuality behind it,” Stoll mentioned. “I do not assume a swap will occur mechanically, however it bodes nicely for them.”
Griner, who performed at Aldine Nimitz Excessive Faculty and Baylor College earlier than changing into a two-time Olympic gold medalist and eight-time WNBA All-Star, was arrested at a Moscow airport in February with hashish oil cartridges in her baggage. She later admitted to possessing the substances unlawful in Russia, mentioned her physician within the US prescribed her medical marijuana and by chance grabbed the cartridges in a rush to get to the airport.
Russia invaded Ukraine a few week after Griner’s arrest. In Might, the US State Division declared that Griner was wrongly imprisoned.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken introduced in late July that the US had supplied Russia a deal aimed toward securing the discharge of Griner and one other imprisoned American, former Marine Paul Whelan. Reuters reported on Friday that the US bid contains the corresponding launch of Russian arms seller Viktor Bout, citing nameless sources conversant in the scenario.
Stoll mentioned he thinks there is a good likelihood such a swap will occur. In April, the US launched Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko in alternate for former Marine Trevor Reed, who has been jailed in Russia since 2019.
“How do you wish to seem on the earth from the perspective of the Russians?” mentioned Stoll. “If it is like, ‘Effectively, we and the US are on reverse sides in Ukraine, and we now have to point out the world that we’re not afraid of the US and we will stand as much as them and do one thing to them,’ that’s unhealthy (grin). She goes to jail. It is like, ‘That is it. That is the top of the story.’”
“Then again, if the perspective on the highest ranges of the Russian authorities is, ‘Effectively, we’re towards the US on Ukraine, however we wish to present the world that we’re an exquisite nation, and so forth. and so forth.’ that might be an argument for doing one thing to let her go.”
Stoll mentioned it is attainable that Griner’s February 17 arrest was orchestrated by the Russian authorities, however he thinks it is extra possible that a low-level official at Moscow Airport discovered the hashish oil throughout a routine baggage search.
“As soon as she’s caught, I imagine every part else is one thing accredited and/or ordered by the best ranges of the Russian authorities,” Stoll mentioned.
The longer Griner stays imprisoned in Russia, Stoll added, the extra risks she confronted.
“I do not assume going to any jail is enjoyable, however I feel a Russian jail general is worse than an American jail,” he mentioned. “She’ll be seen by some prisoners, I feel, as, ‘She’s American. I might help my very own scenario if I deal with it badly as a result of we’re towards People.’ So I’m very anxious about what is going to occur to her in a Russian jail, though hopefully she will likely be launched quickly.”
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