Former NBA star Dennis Rodman said he is trying to go to Russia this week to help facilitate the release of WNBA player Brittney Griner. Russian authorities recently sentenced Griner to nine years in prison for allegedly smuggling illegal drugs into the country earlier this year.
Rodman told NBC News over the weekend that he “got permission to go to Russia to help that girl,” referring to Griner.
“I’m trying to go this week,” he added.
Rodman does not need permission from the United States to visit Russia, but the State Department advises against traveling to Russia, which remains at war with its neighboring nation, Ukraine.
“Do not travel 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, the singling out of U.S. citizens in Russia by Russian government security officials including for detention, the arbitrary enforcement of local law, limited flights into and out of Russia, the Embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, COVID-19-related restrictions, and terrorism,” the State Department warns. “U.S. citizens residing or travelling in Russia should depart Russia immediately. Exercise increased caution due to wrongful detentions.”
Despite the State Department’s warnings, Rodman expressed confidence in taking the trip, which requires a visa from Moscow.
“I know Putin too well,” Rodman said.
Griner has been detained in Russia since February after Russian authorities reportedly found cannabis oil in her luggage. The U.S. State Department considers Griner to have been wrongfully detained abroad.
Griner had been on her way to Moscow to play in the Russian Premier League during the WNBA’s offseason when she was detained. During her trial, Griner admitted to placing the cannabis oil in her luggage but said she did so unintentionally as she was packing her bags before traveling to Russia.
In July, the Biden administration reportedly offered to release the convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for the release of Griner and U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan, who are both being held in Russia. The White House confirmed that a “substantial offer” was made in regards to the release of Whelan and Griner.
Bout was convicted in 2011 of conspiring to kill U.S. nationals, conspiring to kill U.S. officers and employees, conspiring to acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles and conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. Western media nicknamed Bout the “Merchant of Death.”