A Russian court sentenced WNBA star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison for a drug offense, and the Russians immediately signaled they were ready to make a prisoner swap.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow is “ready to discuss this topic,” but only through diplomatic channels. In other words, the Russians want no criticism in the media — either from government officials or private citizens.
In February, Griner was discovered to be carrying less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage.
Griner’s lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a written statement they will appeal the decision and criticized the court for ignoring their evidence. They have 10 days to appeal.
“We are very disappointed by the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone regardless of nationality. The court completely ignored all the evidence of the defense, and most importantly, the guilty plea,” they said in the statement. “This contradicts the existing legal practice. Taking into account the amount of the substance (not to mention the defects of the expertise) and the plea, the verdict is absolutely unreasonable. We will certainly file an appeal.”
Speaking outside court, Boykov said that the average time in jail for this type of crime is five years, adding that almost a third of those convicted get parole.
Griner did not “get what she deserved.” She is a pawn in a geopolitical tussle between Russia and the United States, as is her fellow hostage, Paul Whelan. That said, what Russia wants in return for giving her back is almost too much to bear.
Viktor Bout is known as the “Merchant of Death” for good reason; he sells extraordinarily lethal weapons to terrorists who use those weapons to murder civilians. We can all sympathize with Ms. Griner and the Griner family. But what do we say to the families of dead innocents who mourn the loss of loved ones — murdered by a terrorist who was safely in an American prison until Joe Biden let him out?
Mr. Bout is not some Russian hockey player held in an American gulag because President Joe Biden wants to hurt Russia and win its concessions. Bout is in federal prison because he is an arms dealer who was convicted of numerous very serious charges, including conspiracy to murder American citizens. Bout isn’t just any arms dealer. Alongside his patronage of the GRU, Russia’s most aggressive intelligence service, this hardened criminal provided arms support to al Qaeda-linked groups and the Lebanese Hezbollah. These are determined enemies not simply of the U.S. but of innocent people around the world. Bout is set for release in August 2029, and that is the minimum date on which he should be freed.
Putin is about to be rewarded for taking American hostages — just like Biden’s old boss rewarded the Iranians for kidnapping Americans. But the political benefits in bringing Griner home will be immense. The left will celebrate this “victory” while ignoring the extraordinarily dangerous ramifications of giving Putin leverage.
Next time, Putin may not even bother with catching an unwary American at an airport. Why not just plant a key of coke on an American businessman? Putin is ruthless enough to try it.