MOSCOW — The star of the WNBA Brittney Griner He will remain in Russian custody until at least July 2, the Russian state news agency Tass reported on Tuesday.
The 31-year-old American basketball player has been detained in Russia since February when she was detained at a Moscow airport after authorities claimed she was carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. Last month, the US State Department reclassified her as wrongfully detained.
The Moscow region’s Khimki district court extended Griner’s detention for a third time, according to the Tass report, which also quoted a senior Russian diplomat as saying Moscow would not consider including Griner in a detainee swap “until that the court’s investigation into his case be completed.”
— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) May 5, 2022
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, according to Tass, was responding to US media reports that the Biden administration had offered to trade convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner. Ryabkov did not give a timetable for the proceedings in the player’s case.
Griner’s supporters continue to advocate for her release, with some expressing concern that Moscow could use her as a bargaining chip amid war tensions in Ukraine.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who plays in Russia during the WNBA offseason, was charged with “smuggling significant quantities of a narcotic substance,” a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison in Russia.
The Houston native plays for the Phoenix Mercury.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Tuesday that it was his understanding that department officials learned of the extension of his detention only through Tass, which he said was problematic. It is the third time that he has extended his detention, as on May 13 his detention in Russia was extended another month after it had initially been extended to May 19.
“This case is problematic from top to bottom,” he said. “That is precisely why we have characterized Brittney Griner as an unlawful detainee. It is precisely why we are doing everything we can to seek and affect her early release from Russian detention.”
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Griner’s detention in Russia extended again