WNBA star Brittney Griner has been taken to a penal colony in the Russian region of Mordovia, her lawyers confirmed Thursday. Griner was sentenced to nine and a half years in August after being found guilty of drug charges. Before Thursday's update, it was known that Griner was being moved from the detention center, but her new location had not been disclosed.
"Brittney is doing as well as could be expected and trying to stay strong as she adapts to a new environment," Griner's attorneys, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a statement, via CBS News.
They also added that "this is a very challenging period" for Griner.
The Phoenix Mercury center was detained in Russia on Feb. 17 after custom services at an airport found a marijuana concentrate in her luggage.
Reuters was the first outlet to give an update, reporting that a source said she was recently taken to a Female Penal Colony IK-2 in Yavas, about 300 miles southeast of Moscow.
"We are aware of reports of her location, and in frequent contact with Ms. Griner's legal team," a U.S. State Department spokesperson told Reuters.
"However, the Russian Federation has still failed to provide any official notification for such a move of a U.S. citizen, which we strongly protest. The Embassy has continued to press for more information about her transfer and current location."
The penal colony Reuters mentioned is in the same region where former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan is being held. He was arrested in December 2018 and later sentenced to 16 years on espionage charges. There have been talks about Griner and Whelan being part of a potential prisoner exchange deal with Russia. They could be exchanged for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence.
There is also the chance that Russia wants a two-for-two deal, but it is not known who the other prisoner could be. There has not been an update on the negotiations, but U.S. President Joe Biden has said he hopes that since the midterm elections are now over, Russian President Vladimir Putin "will be able to discuss with us and be willing to talk more seriously about a prisoner exchange."
While finally getting some information about Griner's whereabouts is a welcomed update to those following the situation, CBS News pointed out that the Russian penitentiary system is infamous for its harsh conditions.