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WNBA star Griner in ‘good condition’ in Russian detention: US



Department of State says a US diplomat could visit Brittney Griner, held in Russia since the beginning of last month.

According to the Department of State, the United States diplomat in Moscow has visited the detained US basketball player Brittney Griner, concluding she was in a “good state” after a few weeks in Russian detention.

Griner is, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and an All-Star center for the women’s national basketball association (WNBA), was detained at the airport of Moscow, the Russian capital, in mid-February, on allegations of carrying vape cartridges that had the oil of cannabis in her bag.

  • The WNBA’s Brittney Griner’s arrest has been extended until May 19: Russian media.
  • WNBA player Brittney Griner was arrested in Russia on charges of drug use

Her arrest occurred at a moment of increased tensions and tensions among Russia and the US regarding the ongoing Russian incursion into Ukraine, and the current administration of US President Joe Biden has been pushing to have access to Griner.

“A representative from the embassy was granted access to consular officials for Brittney Griner. We were able to check her condition,” Department of State spokesperson Ned Price said on Wednesday.

“Our official determined Brittney Griner in good health and we’ll take every step we can to ensure that she is treated with respect through this entire ordeal,” he added.

Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and All-Star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury [File: Mark Ralston/Pool via Reuters]

Griner The 31-year-old was living in Russia to play in a basketball club before the US season started, a usual routine for athletes who earn higher wages on foreign leagues than domestic teams. She was a player for Russia for the past seven seasons in winter months, earning over $1 million per year, nearly quadrupling the amount of her WNBA salary.

Russian media announced this week that her detention was extended to May 19. She is facing the possibility of up to 10 years of prison time.

Ekaterina Kalugina from the region’s Public Monitoring Commission, a state-backed group in Russia that monitors prisoner conditions, informed the TASS information agency that Griner shared the same cell with two female detainees suspected of narcotics violations.

Griner’s cellmates were fluent in English and assisted her in talking with staff members at the pretrial detention facility and getting textbooks, Kalugina said.

“The most important issue is the height of the basketball player,” Tass quoted Kalugina as saying about the 6-foot-9-inch (206cm) Griner. “The beds inside the cell are designed for people of a lesser height.”

However, Washington has kept a low profile about Griner’s case, citing fears that she could be used as a plaything in its battle with Moscow regarding the conflict in Ukraine.

“Whatever the result of her case which is currently in the process there’s plenty of reason to suspect that she’s been an instrument in the bigger conflict between two superpowers.” The Washington Post newspaper’s editorial board said on Tuesday, cautioning that the Russian judiciary “is an unfriendly and shady venue that is not a good place for … Greiner’s attempt to seek justice”.

It also stated that “The the fact that Mrs. Griner has a sexual orientation is the very first athlete who is openly gay to receive the endorsement of Nike -which is a cause for more concern, considering that LGBTQ individuals are subject to open opposition and even repression by Russian government officials.”

Although observers have acknowledged the delicate nature of Griner’s situation as well as her wife Cherelle Griner’s request to be quiet while the family works to bring her home safely, there have been some who question the reason why the arrest of one of the most skilled basketball players has prompted such low reactions.

“We can’t ignore the fact that even if Brittney Griner weren’t a Black woman, she would be reported in the media that she’s imprisoned as political prisoners within Russia,” US Congresswoman Cori Bush posted in the last few days on Twitter. “Free Brittney Griner.”

The WNBA started on Wednesday. It worked with government officials and other officials to ensure that she got home safely.

“This remains an intricate situation that’s extremely stressful for Brittney and her family as well as all those who hope for a speedy solution,” the league said in an announcement.

In a separate press release in March, Griner’s team, The Phoenix Mercury, said they were “closely watching” her situation. “We keep in contact regularly with the family members, her representative, and with her representation, WNBA as well as the NBA. We cherish and are supportive of Brittney and, at the moment, our primary focus is on her safety, her physical and mental health in addition to her safety upon her return.”

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