Yury Ushakov, one of Putin’s top advisors and who previously served as Russia's ambassador to the United States for ten years from 1998 and 2008, also suggested President Joe Biden’s vow to free the 31-year-old imprisoned WNBA star is nothing more than PR stunt to help booster the upcoming midterm elections.
“In this tense situation, I think that he is thinking first and foremost about the upcoming midterm elections so he keeps emphasizing the need to bring back home the basketball player who was detained for drug smuggling,” Ushakov said on Sunday.
“However, it's not the main issue that we are concerned about,” he added.
As RadarOnline.com previously reported, Ushakov’s comments come shortly after Griner’s lawyer, Alexandr D. Boykov, revealed the WNBA star is “struggling” in prison and she is skeptical she will be released and allowed to return home.
“She has not been in as good condition as I could sometimes find her in,” Boykov told the New York Times.
“She is not yet absolutely convinced that America will be able to take her home,” he continued. “She is very worried about what the price of that will be, and she is afraid that she will have to serve the whole sentence here in Russia.”
Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison on August 4 after she pleaded guilty to drug smuggling.
She was initially arrested in February after she was caught with two vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in a Moscow airport.
Although Boykov plans to appeal Griner’s sentencing, the WNBA star is also reportedly worried about the conditions of the new jail she will likely be transported to should her appeal be denied.
“Perhaps the verdict will somehow be changed and, perhaps, the sentence will be reduced, because the decision taken by the first court is very different from judicial practice,” Boykov explained.
“Considering all the circumstances, taking into account my client's personality traits and her admission of guilt, such a verdict should be absolutely impossible,” Griner’s lawyer added.
Both President Biden and Putin will be attending this year’s G20 summit in Bali next month, although Biden previously revealed he has no plans to speak with Putin unless the discussion is about Griner’s release.
“It would depend on specifically what he wanted to talk about,” Biden told reporters. “I don't see any rationale to meet with him now.”