MOSCOW – The WNBA star’s lawyer, Brittney Grinersaid on Friday that his detention in Russia was extended by a month.
Griner’s attorney, Alexander Boykov, told The Associated Press that he believed the relatively short length of detention indicated the case would come to trial soon. Griner has been detained for nearly three months.
At the same time, the Russian state news agency TASS published a story saying there were negotiations between the United States and Russia to exchange Griner for a Russian man detained in the United States for financing terrorism. US government officials, speaking to ESPN, expressed skepticism about the reports, saying it was likely a ploy to pressure the US government.
A US official told ESPN that the report is further validation of why Griner was recently reclassified as wrongfully detained and evidence that Russia’s judicial system is transactional.
In Moscow on Friday, Griner appeared at the brief hearing in handcuffs, her dreadlocks covered by a red hoodie and her face bowed.
Boykov said: “We did not receive any complaints about the conditions of our client’s detention.”
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was detained at Moscow airport after vape cartridges containing cannabis-derived oil were allegedly found in her luggage, which could carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
“We have no comment on this specific event. As we have repeatedly said, the Russian system wrongfully detained Ms. Griner,” a State Department official said.
“We take our responsibility to help American citizens seriously, and we will continue to push for fair and transparent treatment for all American citizens when they are subject to legal process abroad.
“We are very involved in this case and in frequent contact with Ms. Griner’s legal team. Diplomats from the US Embassy in Moscow attended the hearing on May 13 and were able to speak with Ms. Griner. She is doing the best she can under these circumstances.”
The Biden administration says Griner, 31, is being wrongfully detained. WNBA and US officials have worked for her release, with no visible progress.
The Russians have described the Griner case as a criminal offense without making any political association.
But it comes amid Moscow’s war in Ukraine that has brought US-Russian relations to their lowest level since the Cold War.
Despite the tension, Russia and the United States carried out an unexpected prisoner swap last month, swapping former Marine Trevor Reed for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal sentence for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the USA. Although the US does not usually accept such exchanges, it made the deal in part because Yaroshenko had already served a large portion of his prison sentence.
The Russians could consider Griner as a potential part of another such exchange.
Information from TJ Quinn of ESPN and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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Russia extends Griner’s detention by a month