MOSCOW — WNBA star Brittney Griner will remain in Russian custody through at least July 2, Russian state-run news agency Tass reported Tuesday.
American basketball star, 31, has been detained in Russia since February on charges of drug-smuggling. Last month, the U.S. Department of State reclassified her as being wrongfully held.
The Khimki district court of the Moscow region extended Griner’s detention for a third time, according to the Tass report, which also cited a top Russian diplomat as saying that Moscow will not consider including Griner in a detainee swap “until a court investigation into her case is completed.”
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Tass reported that Sergei Ryabkov (Deputy Foreign Minister) was reacting to reports in the US that Biden had made an offer to swap Viktor Bout, an convicted arms trader for Griner. Ryabkov gave no timeline for the proceedings in the player’s case.
Griner’s supporters continue to advocate for her release, with some raising concerns that Moscow might use her as a bargaining chip amid tensions over the war in Ukraine.
Griner is a double Olympic gold medalist and was arrested at a Moscow airport. Authorities claimed she was carrying vape cartridges containing marijuana oil. She is accused of “smuggling significant amounts of a narcotic substance,” an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison in Russia.
Houston’s native Houston plays for the Phoenix Mercury.
Ned Price, spokesperson for the State Department told reporters Tuesday that he believed that only Tass had informed department officials about the extension to her detention. This was a problem, he stated.
“This case is problematic from top to bottom,” he said. “It is precisely why we have characterized Brittney Griner as an unlawful detainee. It’s precisely why we are doing everything we can to seek and to affect her prompt release from Russian detention.”
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