Out WNBA Star Brittney Griner Detained In Russia On Drug Charges

Screenshot 3-7-22

U.S. officials are concerned that her arrest on drug charges, which could carry a sentence of 10 years, could be used as leverage as tensions rise between the two countries following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the end of February.

Out WNBA star Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia on drug charges, according to a Russian report released over the weekend. 

On Saturday, the Russian Federal Customs Service stated that it had detained a U.S women’s national basketball team player at Sheremetyevo Airport near Moscow after customs officials found cannabis oil in a vape pen the woman had in her carry-on bag. Griner was later identified as the player by a Russian news outlet.

Although reported first over the weekend, Griner appears to have been arrested sometime in February.

U.S. officials are concerned that her arrest on drug charges, which could carry a sentence of 10 years, could be used as leverage as tensions rise between the two countries following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the end of February. One former Pentagon official told Yahoo Sports News that Russia “is going to have some terms” for Griner’s release. “It could be a prisoner swap. They could also use it as an implicit threat or blackmail to get us to do something or not do something. Either way, they find it useful.”

Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents Griner’s hometown of Houston, is demanding Griner’s release, saying that the current situation between Russia and Ukraine has undermined Russia’s credibility with regards to the arrest. “I don’t want to disregard a sovereign nation but Putin has disregarded sovereign nations his entire service in this world,” the Congresswoman said. “Anyone that is killing and attacking and destroying Ukraine, a neighboring country that is not bothering them, has no right to hold Ms. Griner. Period.” 

Griner, 31, plays center for the Phoenix Mercury. In the WNBA off-season, she plays for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia.  

Whether Griner was targeted because she is American, or because of her high profile, is unclear. 

In a post on Instagram, Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, thanked those who had shown their support for the couple “during one of the weakest moments of my life,” asking that everyone respect their privacy during this time.

 

In a later post addressed to Brittney, she wrote, “We love you babe! … My heart, our hearts, are all skipping beats everyday that goes by without hearing from you. I miss your voice. I miss your presence. You’re our person!”

She closed by saying, “There are no words to express this pain. I’m hurting, we’re hurting. We await the day to love on you as a family.”


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