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Dennis Rodman says he’ll go to Russia to push for Brittney Griner’s release

Former NBA player and self-appointed diplomat Dennis Rodman said he is making plans to travel to Russia to call for the release of WNBA player Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in prison earlier this month.

In an interview with NBC, Rodman, 61, said he “got permission to go to Russia to help that girl.”

He said he is trying to travel to the country this week.

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Griner, 31, was sentenced on drug charges after a Russian court found the two-time Olympic gold medallist guilty of deliberately bringing cannabis-infused vape cartridges — which are illegal — into the country.

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U.S. President Joe Biden has condemned the verdict, calling it “unacceptable.”

Though Rodman — who has had controversial “relationships” with various international leaders, including Kim Jong Un — believes he can “help” Griner, the Biden administration does not think the same.

“It’s public information that the administration has made a significant offer to the Russians and anything other than negotiating further through the established channel is likely to complicate and hinder release efforts,” a senior Biden official said.

The offer in question is a prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia, in which the U.S. proposed to trade Griner and Canadian-American Paul Whelan for imprisoned Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Whelan was charged with spying in 2020, and was handed a sentence of 16 years in Russian prison.

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Despite a travel advisory from the U.S. government encouraging Americans not to travel to Russia, Rodman plans to receive a visa from Moscow. The travel advisory says Americans should not go to Russia “due to the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces, the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials,” and a slew of other cited reasons.

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Rodman, who visited Moscow in 2014 and called Russian President Vladimir Putin “cool,” said he has an understanding of the leader.

“I know Putin too well,” Rodman told NBC.

Over the last decade, Rodman has also connected with Kim, and has visited North Korea.

Former U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman, right, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second from left, watch an exhibition basketball game between American and North Korean players at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium on Jan. 8, 2014.

Kyodo News via Getty Images/File

In 2013, he attended an exhibition match featuring the Harlem Globetrotters in the capital of Pyongyang. He also later called Kim a “friend for life.

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The following year, Rodman credited his relationship with Kim as a key factor in the release of Kenneth Bae, who had been a prisoner in North Korea for several years. Bae, a Korean-American missionary, had been serving a 15-year sentence for alleged anti-government activities.

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Last week, lawyers for Griner appealed her nine-year Russian prison sentence. Her legal team claimed the sentence was excessive and that in similar cases defendants have received an average sentence of about five years, with about a third of them granted parole.

— With files from Reuters 

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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