WNBA star Britney Greiner detained in Russia: What to know

Photo: Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

As tensions between the United States and Russia continue to escalate amid Russia’s invasion of UkraineAmerican The WNBA star has been in Russia for months. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Britney Greiner who plays for the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA and has played for Russia’s UMMC Ekaterinburg during the off-season, was arrested on drug charges in February after customs found vape cartridges in her luggage at the airport. US officials he met with Griner last month, and while a spokesperson for the US Embassy in Moscow said it was in “Good ConditionIt is still unclear when it will be released.

Russia first announced the news on March 6, telling the world that it has an American basketball player in custody. The player was later identified as Griner and screenshots It claims to appear Her station was released into customs. According to New York timesRussian law enforcement says Greiner was found with e-cigarette cartridges containing cannabis oil, and is said to be opening a criminal case against her for “large-scale drug transportation”.

After Russia announced Graner’s arrest, her agent, Lindsey Kagawa Colas, told ESPN that they were “in close contact with her, her legal representation in Russia, her family, her team, the WNBA and the NBA.” “As this is an ongoing legal issue, we cannot comment further on the specifics of her case, but we can confirm that while we work to get her home, her mental and physical health remains our primary concern,” Colas’ statement continued. Greiner’s wife, Cheryl GreinerShe also released a statement on Instagram thanking fans for their “prayers and support” and asking for privacy. Meanwhile, the WNBA released a statement offering Griner its “full support,” stating that “our main priority is her speedy and safe return to the United States.” Phoenix Mercury and american basketball They issued similar statements.

Greiner’s arrest in Russia is particularly troubling given her pre-eminent standing as an American athlete and her identity as a LGBTQ + black woman. Russian President Russian President Vladimir Putin took an active stand against LGBTQ+ rightshaving announced in 2020 that it will never be legalized Same-sex marriage in the country.

city ​​police Anthony Blinken He admitted the arrest of Greiner during a press conference on March 6, saying, “When an American is arrested anywhere in the world, we are of course ready to provide all possible assistance. This includes Russia.”

On March 16, an official Russian news agency reported that a court in Moscow had done this Griner’s detention extended Until May 19, the start of the WNBA season. While concerted efforts to secure the freedom of Griner have kept privatea US State Department spokesperson claimed that the department was “We do everything we can“To support Griner and work towards her safe release. On March 23, consular officials It said She visited Griner in the cell she shares with two Russian prisoners. In a press conference following the visit, US Embassy spokeswoman Jennifer Palmer reiterated that the embassy was doing everything in its power to secure Greiner’s release and to ensure she was “treated fairly throughout this ordeal.” While government officials choose to work quietly Regarding the Griner case, fearing that excessive publicity about her would negatively affect her detention, many Griner supporters are angry that the government is not campaigning vociferously for her freedom.

On April 28, a Biden administration announce it Trevor Reid – United State Navy veteran Who has been arrested in Russia since 2019 – He was released as part of a prisoner exchange between Russia and the United States, to renew scrutiny of the Grenier case. A source said ESPN What Team Griner saw Reid’s release as an “encouraging” step toward the possibility of the White House negotiating a deal for her. At the time, ESPN noted that the cases are very different, and that the road to Griner’s release may still be long: Grenier has not yet been formally charged or designated as a hostage by the State Department and she can be held for up to a year before her case goes to trial. Cheryl Greiner took to Instagram To celebrate Reid’s release and express the pain for his wife’s continued detention. “As I do everything in my power to bring BJ home, my heart is overflowing with joy for the Reed family,” she wrote. I don’t know them personally, but I know the pain it took to detain your loved ones in a foreign country. This level of pain is constant and can only be treated with a safe return home.”

Less than a week after Reade’s release, the US State Department changed its position on Greiner, calling it “officially”unjustly detainedBy Russia On May 3rd, according to NPR, this change in the official language will allow the US to actively negotiate for her release without waiting for the Russian legal system to take her case to trial and issue a ruling. “The United States Government will continue to provide appropriate consular support to Mrs. Greiner and her family,” said A Foreign Ministry official in the current situation. Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, also issued a statement following the switch, saying, “We expect the White House to do whatever is necessary to bring her home.”

On May 13, Grenier’s lawyer told News agency That the Russian authorities extended her pretrial detention by one month, which he believes may mean that Grenier’s case will soon be brought to trial. Greiner was photographed handcuffed leaving a courtroom hearing in Khimki, a city outside Moscow, holding her head low under a red hoodie. Speaking to her welfare, Greiner’s attorney told The Associated Press that her legal team “has not received any complaints about detention conditions from our clients.”