What we know about Brittney Griner's detention in Russia

As tensions rose between Russia and the United States, Russian authorities inmate Brittney Griner, a WNBA star, charged with drug traff...

As tensions rose between Russia and the United States, Russian authorities inmate Brittney Griner, a WNBA star, charged with drug trafficking. Russia’s Federal Customs Service announced the detention of Ms Griner on Saturday, but said she was arrested at Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow last month.

The detention of Ms Griner, 31, a seven-time WNBA All-Star center for the Phoenix Mercury and a key figure on two Olympic champion teams, comes amid a heated confrontation between Russia and the United States over the Russian invasion of Ukraine and draws the player into the midst of the most acute crisis between the two countries since the Cold War.

Here’s what we know so far about Ms Griner’s detention.

Russia’s Federal Customs Service says a sniffer dog tricked it into searching the hand luggage of an American basketball player at Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow, and found vaping cartridges containing vape. hash oil. A state-owned Russian news agency later identified the player as Ms Griner.

Hash oil is a marijuana concentrate that has a high concentration of THC, a psychoactive chemical, and is commonly sold in cartridges used in vape pens. Russia’s Federal Customs Service said customs officers noticed vapes after scanning the traveller’s bag.

The Customs Service said a criminal case had been opened for large-scale transport of drugs, a charge that carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

He posted video of a traveler who appeared to be Ms Griner going through airport security with a wheeled suitcase and a small backpack, followed by footage of someone examining a package that appeared to be from the traveler’s suitcase.

“Brittney has always conducted herself with the utmost professionalism during her long tenure with USA Basketball,” USA Basketball said. said on Twitter.

The check at the airport took place in February, according to the customs service, raising the possibility that Ms Griner was detained for at least several days. She last posted on Instagram February 5. The timeline provided leaves open the possibility that the case could have been ongoing in secret for weeks before Russian authorities chose to draw attention to it.

It remains unclear whether Russia could have targeted Ms Griner for leverage against the United States, which has led a widespread effort to impose harsh sanctions on Russia and its elite.

Citing confidentiality constraints, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken did not comment on the detention Sunday at a press conference in Chisinau, Moldova, and did not respond to questions about whether Russia had announced his arrest in retaliation for the economic, military and diplomatic pressure exerted by the United States against Russia in recent days.

But US officials have repeatedly accused Russia of detaining US citizens under dubious pretexts.

“This follows a pattern of Russia wrongfully detaining and imprisoning American citizens,” Rep. Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, wrote on Twitter on Saturday, citing the case of Trevor Reed, a former U.S. Marine who was a former U.S. Marine. russian court sentenced to nine years in prison in 2020 on charges of violence against police officers that his family and supporters said were fraudulent.

On Saturday, the State Department issued an updated advisory urging U.S. citizens to leave Russia immediately given the “potential for harassment of U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials.”

Ms. Griner played for Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg for several years during the WNBA offseason.

Many American players compete with high-paying Russian teams: about 70 WNBA players decided to play with international teams instead of resting during the offseason this year, with more than a dozen in Russia and Ukraine.

A WNBA spokeswoman said Saturday that everyone else had already left Russia and Ukraine.

The financial incentives are compelling. WNBA players earn a fraction of what their male counterparts do, with their maximum salary in 2022 at $228,094 while the NBA’s top players are paid tens of millions of dollars.

International women’s teams, which tend to receive more government and corporate financial support than those of the WNBA, can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars per season, and sometimes more than $1 million.

Some observers critical the gender pay gap in US basketball in relation to Ms Griner’s detention.

Mr Blinken said the State Department would “provide all possible assistance” to any American detained by a foreign government.

“Whenever an American is detained anywhere in the world, of course we are ready to provide any assistance we can,” Blinken said. “And that includes in Russia.”

The WNBA said in a statement that Ms. Griner “has the full support of the WNBA and our top priority is her speedy and safe return to the United States.”

The Mercury also released a statement saying they “love and support Brittney” and that their primary concern was her safety, physical and mental health and her safe return home.

“Thank you to everyone who contacted me about the safe return of my wife from Russia,” said Mrs. Griner’s wife, Cherelle T. Griner, posted on Instagram Saturday, adding, “We continue to work to bring my wife home safely.”

Lara Jacques contributed reporting from Chisinau, Moldova.

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Newsrust - US Top News: What we know about Brittney Griner's detention in Russia
What we know about Brittney Griner's detention in Russia
Newsrust - US Top News
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