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NBA legend Dennis Rodman made headlines over the weekend when he revealed his plans to travel to Russia to advocate for the release of WNBA superstar Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in prison after being convicted on charges of drug.
Rodman told NBC News over the weekend that he “got permission” to travel to Russia to “help that girl.” He did not provide details on who gave him the green light to travel to Russia.
On Monday, State Department spokesman Ned Price was asked about Rodman’s travel plans.
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“Well, we have seen through the media, and really only through the media, that Dennis Rodman has said that he intends to travel to Russia. He – I want to be clear, he is – he would not be traveling on behalf of the Government American,” Price said.
“I’ve just reiterated what we’ve been saying now for the last several weeks. We made a substantial proposal to Russia to seek the freedom of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner. We believe that anything other than further negotiations through the established channel has likely. to complicate and hinder these release efforts. We have also issued very clear instructions to American citizens due to a number of threats, not the least of which is the threat of wrongful detention, that Americans should not travel in Russia. message to private Americans across the board.”
The State Department has a Level 4 travel advisory to warn Americans about traveling to Russia.
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“Do not travel to Russia due to the unprovoked and unjustified occupation of Ukraine by Russian military forces, the potential for harassment of American citizens by Russian government security officials, the exclusion of American citizens from Russia by Russian government security officials, including including detention, arbitrary enforcement of domestic law, restricted flights in and out of Russia, limited ability of the Embassy to assist US citizens in Russia, restrictions related to COVID-19 and terrorism,” the warning states. “US citizens residing or traveling to Russia should leave Russia immediately. Use extra caution due to erroneous bans.”
Price said last week that the agency still classified Griner as “wrongfully arrested.” He was asked about Griner and the potential for a prisoner swap with Russia that could include convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout and another American held in Russia, Paul Whelan.
“No element of this trial changes our judgment that Brittney Griner was wrongly arrested and should be released immediately,” Price said. “That is why we put forward a few weeks ago what we consider to be a serious, substantive proposal and an effort to seek her release, to seek the release of Paul Whelan as well.
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“We are in communication with the Russians on this matter and we encourage them to pursue this constructively.”
Griner’s lawyers in Russia appealed her conviction. She was arrested for bringing vapor cartridges containing cannabis-derived oils through a Moscow airport in February. She was convicted and received her sentence on August 4.
Rodman has a history of interacting with world leaders.
Rodman met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in 2013 and was among the first Americans to meet him. The former Chicago Bulls star wrote a letter to Kim in January 2014, and about 10 months later captured American Kenneth Bae was released, according to TMZ Sports. Rodman had appeared in the country several times since Bae’s release.
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In 2014, Rodman described Putin as “cool” in an interview with FOX Business. He said he was not talking about Putin’s politics. He said Putin shook his hand and left during his interaction with him on a trip to Russia.