Out basketball star Brittney Griner detained in Russia
Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) icon Brittney Griner has reportedly been taken into custody in Russia on drug charges.
Griner, a seven-time WNBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested after customs officials allegedly detected hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow, the New York Times reported.
The Russian Federal Customs Services released a statement that officials detained the player in February for possession of vape cartridges that contained the oil found in her luggage. It also released a video that showed airport security workers searching the luggage of a passenger, who was later identified as Griner.
The customs service said a criminal case has been opened, and Griner could face up to 10 years in a Russian prison if convicted.
Griner’s agent Lindsay Colas told the Guardian that they are aware of the “situation” with the Phoenix Mercury player in Russia. Colas said the agency is in “close contact with her, her legal representation in Russia, her family, her teams, and the WNBA and NBA”.
“As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are not able to comment further on the specifics of her case but can confirm that as we work to get her home, her mental and physical health remain our primary concern,” Colas said.
The WNBA said that Griner has the league’s “full support”, and its “main priority” is her “swift and safe return” to the USA.
The Phoenix Griner said on Twitter that the team is “aware of” and is “closely monitoring” Griner’s situation in Russia.
“We remain in constant contact with her family, her representation, the WNBA and NBA,” the team said. “We love and support Brittney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home.”
— Phoenix Mercury (@PhoenixMercury) March 5, 2022
According to the Associated Press, Brittney Griner has played professional basketball in Russia for the last seven years. She played for her Russian team the UMMC Ekaterinburg on 29 January before the league had a two-week break in early February.
Over a dozen WNBA players have played in Russia and Ukraine this winter, and the WNBA confirmed that all players besides Griner had left both countries.
Griner’s wife Cherelle thanked those who had reached out “regarding my wife’s safe return from Russia” in an Instagram post on Saturday (5 March).
“Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated,” Cherelle wrote. “I love my wife wholeheartedly, so this message comes during one of the weakest moments of my life.”
She asked fans to honour the family’s privacy as they continue to work to get Griner home.
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News of Brittney Griner’s detainment comes as Russian forces continue their deadly invasion of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian military said it had fought “fierce battles to maintain certain borders” against Russian forces, the Guardian reported. It claimed there was an “extremely low morale and psychological state” among Russian troops because of the Ukrainian resistance.
The US embassy in Moscow released a security alert on 27 February that said an “increasing number of airlines” have been cancelling flights in and out of Russia. The embassy advised that US citizens should leave Russia “immediately via commercial options still available”.
On Friday (5 March), the US embassy in Moscow warned citizens not to travel to the country “due to the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine, the potential for harassment against US citizens by Russian government security officials” and the embassy’s limited ability to help US citizens in the country.