Brittney Griner’s wife says she will not be quiet any more
More than four months after her arrest in Moscow, US women’s basketball star Brittney Griner appeared in a Russian court on Friday for what was expected to be the beginning of her trial on drug charges.
The 31-year-old athlete was seen arriving at Khimki City Court outside of Moscow in handcuffs shortly after noon local time, with US embassy staff in attendance.
She then heard her charges, including intentionally transporting narcotics. Facing up to 10 years in prison in Russia, Griner accepted the charges and did not enter a plea, she reports she said her.
A center for the Phoenix Mercury, Griner had played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia during the WNBA off-season, and was arrested on her way home when Russian airport officials say they found vape cartridges with traces of hashish oil – an offense in the country.
Lawyers for Griner – whose wife has pleaded for US President Joe Biden to meet with her and secure the WNBA’s star release – believe the trial will last two months, reports say. Proceedings summarizes on Thursday 7 July.
What might a deal to free Brittney Griner from Russia look like?
Brittney Griner’s supporters have encouraged US authorities to negotiate a prisoner swap like the one in April that brought home Marine veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for a Russian pilot convicted of drug trafficking conspiracy.
Russian news media have repeatedly raised speculation that she could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed “the Merchant of Death,” who is serving a 25-year sentence on conviction of conspiracy to kill US citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organization .
Russia has agitated for Bout’s release for years. But the wide discrepancy between Griner’s case — which involves alleged possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil — and Bout’s global dealings in deadly weapons could make such a swap unpalatable to the US.
Others have suggested that she could be traded in tandem with Paul Whelan, a former Marine and security director serving a 16-year sentence on an espionage conviction that the US has repeatedly described as a setup.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, when asked on Sunday on CNN whether a joint swap of Griner and Whelan for Bout was being considered, sidestepped the question.
“As a general proposition… I have got no higher priority than making sure that Americans who are being illegally detained in one way or another around the world come home,” he said. But he said he could not comment “in any detail on what we’re doing, except to say this is an absolute priority.”
Oliver O’Connell6 July 2022 08:00
Brittney Griner chosen as honorary WNBA All-Star starter
Brittney Griner will have a place at the WNBA All-Star Game, being named an honorary starter by Commissioner Cathy Engelbert.
Griner has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17 after authorities at an airport outside of Moscow said she had vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her bag.
“During each season of Brittney’s career in which there has been an All-Star Game, she has been selected as an All-Star,” Engelbert said. “It is not difficult to imagine that if BG were here with us this season, she would once again be selected and would, no doubt, show off her incredible talents. So, it is only fitting that she be named as an honorary starter today and we continue to work on her safe return to the US”
Oliver O’Connell6 July 2022 06:00
Brittney Griner’s sister pleads for Russia to ignore politics and free her
The family of Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star Brittney Griner has asked president Joe Biden to do “whatever necessary” to get her released from detention in Russia.
The two-time Olympic medalist was detained in Russia in February on allegations that she was bringing marijuana through a Moscow-area airport. The Phoenix Mercury player competed in European leagues during the WNBA offseason, with that being the reason for her travel from her to Russia.
“My sister has been wrongfully detained in Russia for over 100 days now,” the player’s sister Shekera Griner said in an emotional video.
“To many of you, Brittney is affectionately known as BG, the WNBA star, the gold-medalist. To us, she is a daughter, she is a sister, she is an aunt, she is a cousin, she’s a niece, she is a wife,” she added.
Alisha Rahaman Sarkar has the details.
Oliver O’Connell6 July 2022 04:00
Brittney Griner ‘only playing’ in Russia due to gender pay gap, says US teammates
Basketball star Brittney Griner – who appeared in a court in Moscow this week – was only playing in Russia because of the low wages paid to women athletes in the US, which her friends and colleagues say make it tough to make a living.
Griner, 31, who was brought to a court in the Moscow suburb of Khimki in handcuffs, has been charged with drug smuggling after she was arrested at an airport allegedly carrying cannabis oil in her luggage. She faces up to ten years in jail if convicted.
Her supporters say she is the victim of wrongful arrest and have called on President Joe Biden and others to press for her release. She was detained one week before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Her wife, Cherelle Griner, told CNN she’s struggled to keep her composure, while urging the US authorities to do more.
Andrew Buncombe has more.
Oliver O’Connell6 July 2022 02:00
Brittney Griner: Outrage grows as Russia keeps holding WNBA star
Outrage is growing on social media as Russian authorities continue to detain WNBA star Brittney Griner.
Officials with the Russian Federal Customs Service announced that they arrested the “two-time Olympic basketball champion in the US team” at some point in February, claiming they found hashish oil-filled vape cartridges in her luggage.
“What a nightmare scenario. I cannot even imagine what she must be feeling [right now],” New York Times columnist Roxane Gay tweeted.
Oliver O’Connell6 July 2022 00:00
What has Russia said about Brittney Griner?
Russia has defended the arrest of US women’s basketball star Brittney Griner, pushing back on claims by the Biden administration that her detention in the country is “illegal”.
In a statement, Russian authorities said 31-year-old Ms Griner was detained by Moscow police in February based on “objective facts and evidence”.
“She was caught red-handed while trying to smuggle hash oil,” the statement, issued by Russia’s foreign ministry to CNN, said. “In Russia, this is a crime.”
Oliver O’Connell5 July 2022 22:00
White House insists Brittney Griner to ‘priority’
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday said the case of WNBA star and US olympian Brittney Griner’s continued detention in Russia is “a priority” for President Joe Biden and his administration after a letter from the basketball player to Mr Biden was made public by Ms Griner’s family.
“This is an issue that is a priority for this President,” said Ms Jean-Pierre, who noted that the US has classified Ms Griner as being “wrongfully detained” by the Russian government.
Oliver O’Connell5 July 2022 21:30
State Department not commenting in any detail on Griner case
State Department Spokesperson Ned Price says the US is not in a position to comment publicly “in any detail” on Brittney Griner’s detainment in Russia: “We do not want to say anything that would potentially jeopardize the chances of seeing an American released.”
Oliver O’Connell5 July 2022 21:10
Asked about the criticism the administration has faced regarding its response to Ms Griner’s situation, Ms Jean-Pierre replies that they will do the same work they did when Trevor Reed was freed.
Oliver O’Connell5 July 2022 20:57
Biden has read letter, US will use ‘every tool’ to get Griner out of Russia
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre says President Joe Biden has read Brittney Griner’s handwritten letter to him.
“The president did read the letter. I was there when he read the letter.”
She adds that Ms Griner is being “wrongfully detained,” and “this is an issue that is a priority for this president.”
Ms Jean-Pierre says the government will use “every tool” to try to get her out of detention in Russia.
Oliver O’Connell5 July 2022 20:40
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.