'UNACCEPTABLE': Biden slams Russia as US star jailed for nine years

US president Joe Biden has lashed out at Russia after US basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison – an outcome he branded "unacceptable".

The 31-year-old athlete was convicted for illegal drug possession after bringing hashish-infused vape cartridges into the country. She had admitted having the cartridges but called it an honest mistake.

The Olympic champion, who plays in Russia in the US off-season, was detained in February at Moscow Sheremetyevo airport, days before Russian troops invaded Ukraine.

US basketball star Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nearly a decade behind bars.
US basketball star Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nearly a decade behind bars. Source: Reuters

She received close to the maximum 10 year sentence and was also fined one million roubles ($A23,395), according to Russian media reports.

As she was being led away in handcuffs, Ms Griner simply said: "I love my family".

The White House has reportedly mulled a prisoner swap deal with Russia for the return of the basketball star, with Mr Biden

"Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney.

"It's unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates," he said in a statement.

He said his administration would "continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue" to bring her home safely as soon as possible.

The president had earlier promised Ms Griner's wife Cherelle Griner his help and support in a call in July.

Seen as one of the best players in the WNBA, the prospect of a prisoner swap deal for Ms Briner which would involve the US handing over arms dealers to Putin and the Kremlin appears to remain alive.

U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, walks after the final statements in a court hearing in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia August 4, 2022. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina
The White House has vowed to return the 31-year-old home. Source: Reuters

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov had previously discussed the deal that would also involve another US citizen detained in Moscow, Paul Whelan, arrested in 2018 and accused of spying.

"Nothing about today's decision changes our determination that Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained, and we will continue working to bring Brittney and fellow wrongfully detained US citizen Paul Whelan home," Mr Blinken said.

with wires

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