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State Department Makes Opinion On Brittney Griner Very Clear

Brittney Griner looks on during the Phoenix Mercury game.

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 8: Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury looks on during the game against the Las Vegas Aces during Game Five of the 2021 WNBA Semifinals on October 8, 2021 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images)

Brittney Griner's lawyers have filed an appeal for her nine-year Russian prison sentence on charges of drug possession.

The WNBA star was arrested in February after officials found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at a Moscow airport. A Russian court convicted Griner on Aug. 4.

In early May, the U.S. government officially classified Griner as "wrongfully detained." State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during Monday's press briefing that they're maintaining that label following Russia's ruling.

"No element of this trial changes our judgment that Brittney Griner is being wrongfully detained and should be released immediately... We are in communication with the Russians on this matter and we encourage them to pursue this constructively," Price said.

Price declined to further comment on discussions with Russia regarding Griner's release.

While Quinn said both countries "have gotten generally quiet" in terms of public comments, a U.S. source pointed to that as a sign of optimism. However, Quinn cautioned that "talks could blow up at any time," and there's no timetable on a deal.

Griner's lawyer said they're willing to drop the appeal to help facilitate a deal.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken disclosed in July that the U.S. made a "substantial offer" to Russia to bring Griner and American prisoner Paul Whelan home. They reportedly proposed exchanging Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, known as the "Merchant of Death."

On Sunday, a senior Russian diplomat confirmed that the U.S. and Russia have conducted conversations about Griner's release.