More than a month has passed since Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison, and the WNBA star is "stressed" as she waits for news on her appeal process or a possible prisoner exchange, her lawyer tells PEOPLE.
With no new updates on her next possible steps, "Brittney is stressed and very much concerned with the future," her lawyer Maria Blagovolina, a partner at Rybalkin Gortsunyan Dyakin and Partners, says.
Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison on Aug. 4 on charges of smuggling drugs into the country, just below the maximum sentence of 10 years. After the trial, Blagovolina had said the sentence was "absolutely unreasonable," and that she and Griner's legal team will file an appeal as soon as possible.
That happened on Aug. 15, and nearly a month later, they're still waiting to learn what day the hearings will start, Blagovolina says.
EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/POOL/AFP via Getty Brittney Griner holds up a photo of her teammates while in court
Blagovolina had previously told PEOPLE that they don't know if the appeal will be successful — and historically, appeals have not done much to change Russian prison sentences — but said that they have to try.
"We need to use every legal opportunity that we have, and appeal is one of these opportunities," she said.
Once the appeal does begin, the process will also take several months, another of Griner's lawyers, Alexander Boykov, from the Moscow Legal Center, told PEOPLE. "It's not very fast."
There is also still hope that Griner will be part of a prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Russia. In July, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Biden administration said that they are in discussions with Russia to swap the WNBA star and Paul Whelan, another American imprisoned in the country, for a not-yet-named Russian prisoner held in the U.S.
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For now though, the two-time Olympic gold medalist doesn't know what will happen next. She could be exchanged, or the appeal hearings could finally begin, or she could live out her next nine years in a Russian penal colony.
When Griner heard about the potential exchange, she was "quite happy to know that she's not been forgotten and that there are some possible developments," Blagovolina previously told PEOPLE. "But she's quite realistic about what's going on."