‘I Got Permission to Go to Russia to Help That Girl’



(Newser)

NBA alum Dennis Rodman says he’s received permission to go to Russia to appeal for the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and could depart soon. “I got permission to go to Russia to help that girl. I’m trying to go this week,” he told NBC News on Saturday. The 61-year-old, who’s referred to himself as a “basketball ambassador,” only needs a visa from Moscow to enter the country. He claimed he might have pull as he knows Russian President Vladimir Putin “too well.” Putin invited Rodman to Russia in 2014 and met with him in Moscow. Rodman later described the president as “cool.”


A State Department rep said it was aware of the report but pointed to its advisory warning Americans against traveling to Russia, due in part to “the singling out of US citizens in Russia by Russian government security officials including for detention,” per Fox News. A senior Biden administration official seemed to frown on the expected move, per NBC. “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,” they said.


The Biden administration has been pushing for the release of Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in prison after bringing cannabis oil vape cartridges into the country, along with US detainee Paul Whelan as part of a prisoner swap. However, a Kremlin spokesperson recently blasted the US for making the negotiations public. Rodman has some experience with what NBC calls “informal diplomacy.” He famously met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2013 and later claimed credit for the release of Kenneth Bae, a US detainee in the country. Bae himself said Rodman was “a catalyst for my release,” who “brought attention to my plight,” per the Guardian. (Read more Dennis Rodman stories.)