Brittney Griner taken to penal colony in Russia's Mordovia region

The basketball player will be brought to the same penal colony region as another American prisoner.

 US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, stands inside a defendants' cage during the reading of the court's verdict in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia August 4, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA)
US basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, stands inside a defendants' cage during the reading of the court's verdict in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia August 4, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA)

US basketball star Brittney Griner has been taken to a penal colony in the Russian region of Mordovia, a source familiar with the case told Reuters on Thursday.

In August, Griner was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony on drugs charges following her arrest at a Moscow airport in February with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. She was moved from a detention center near Moscow on Nov. 4 to be taken to an undisclosed prison location.

Russian authorities have given no information on her whereabouts for nearly two weeks, but the source said she had been taken to Female Penal Colony IK-2 in Yavas, about 500 km (300 miles) southeast of Moscow.

The colony is in Mordovia, the same region where another American, Paul Whelan, is serving a 16-year sentence in a different penal settlement after being convicted of espionage charges that he denies.

Constantly updating her whereabouts

Asked about Griner's case, a US State Department spokesperson said: "We are aware of reports of her location and in frequent contact with Ms. Griner's legal team.

US WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, is escorted after the court's verdict in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia August 4, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA)US WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later charged with illegal possession of cannabis, is escorted after the court's verdict in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia August 4, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA)

"However, the Russian Federation has still failed to provide any official notification for such a move of a US citizen, which we strongly protest. The Embassy has continued to press for more information about her transfer and current location."

Inmates of Russian penal colonies are required to work long hours for meager pay on tedious manual tasks such as sewing. Former prisoners and human rights groups describe conditions there as harsh and unhygienic, with little access to medical care.

Russia and the United States have discussed swapping Griner and Whelan, a former US Marine, for a Russian arms dealer jailed in the United States, but no deal has materialized amid heightened tensions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

At her trial, Griner - who played in the US off-season for a Russian team - said she had used cannabis for relief from sports injuries but had not meant to break the law and had made an honest mistake by packing the cartridges in her luggage.