State Department Says Russia Denied Access To WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Under Russian law, the Phoenix Mercury player could be detained for up to 12 months. She is accused of bringing vape cartridges containing hashish oil into the country.

March 19, 2022
WNBA star Brittney Griner wears a white USA jersey at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

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Brittney Griner #15 of Team United States looks on against Serbia during the second half of a Women's Basketball Semifinals game on day fourteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Saitama Super Arena on August 06, 2021 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Photo by: Getty / Kevin C. Cox

Getty / Kevin C. Cox

The U.S. State Department said they are working overtime to get access to WNBA star Brittney Griner, whose stay in a Russian jail has been extended through mid-May, according to Russian state news, per CNN.

According to a Fox News report, a member of Russia’s Public Monitoring Commission told the Russian news agency TASS, “a representative from the U.S. consulate has not visited Griner despite the administration of the pre-trial detention center being ready to create all conditions for his visit.”

But the State Department said they’ve been trying to reach all U.S. citizens detained in Russia—including Griner, a center for the Phoenix Mercury.

“We have repeatedly asked for consular access to these detainees and have consistently been denied access," a State Department spokesperson told Reuters. “Russia must abide by its legal obligations and allow us to provide consular services for U.S. citizens detained in Russia.”

Griner was originally arrested in Moscow on Feb. 17, on drug charges. According to ESPN, the 31-year-old is accused of bringing vape cartridges containing hashish oil, oil derived from cannabis, into Russia. Hashish is an illegal substance in Russia.

Under Russian law, defendants can be held up to 12 months before trial and up to 18 months, “in extraordinary cases,” Tom Firestone, former resident legal adviser at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, told ESPN.

Griner’s jailing comes during a time when tensions between the United States and Russia are high following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“This continues to be a complex situation that is extremely difficult for Brittney, her family, and all who are hoping for a swift resolution,” the WNBA said in a statement, obtained by Reuters. “Our number one priority remains her safe return.”

“My heart, our hearts, are all skipping beats every day that goes by. I miss your voice. I miss your presence,” Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, wrote on Instagram. “I’m hurting, we’re hurting. We await the day to love on you as a family.”

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