Lawyers appeal US basketball star's 9 year Russian jail sentence

US professional basketball player Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nine years in a penal colony by a Russian court on a conviction of drug smuggling.

Griner was stopped at a Moscow airport in February after Customs found vape cartridges containing less than a gram of cannabis oil in her baggage.

The drugs had been legally prescribed by a doctor in America, but are illegal in Russia.

READ MORE: US basketball player arrested in Russia on drug charges

Griner pleaded guilty but the sentence was far longer than expected - her lawyers are now appealing it.

"She's very upset, very upset and very stressed, and she can hardly talk, honestly. So, it's a difficult time for her," said Griner's lawyer Mariya Blagovolina after the sentencing.

Griner told the court she'd made a mistake, and apologised to her teammates - holding a photo of them in her hands.

"I made an honest mistake. And I hope that in your ruling it doesn't end my life here," she told the court.

The United States administration is also lobbying hard to have Griner returned to the United States in a prisoner swap, with arms dealer Viktor Bout, known as the "merchant of death."

Bout is currently locked up in an American prison.

In return, the US wants not just Griner - but also Paul Whelan, a former marine and businessman convicted by Russia of espionage.

"It's a serious proposal. We urge them to accept it. They should have accepted it weeks ago when we first made it," said John Kirby, the US National Security Council spokesman.

Talks have now stalled, with reports Russia has demanded a second prisoner to be swapped on its side - something US officials are not said to be considering seriously.

Griner told the court today she regretted her actions deeply.

"I want to apologise to my teammates, my club, the fans, and the city of Yekat for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on the team," she said.