U.S. Diplomats Say They Spoke With Brittney Griner on Friday
WNBA star Brittney Griner appeared in Russian court on Friday had 30 days added to her pretrial detainment on Friday. Griner has been detained since February after being arrested at an airport outside Moscow.
A United States Department of State spokesperson told The Washington Post that U.S. diplomats were able to talk to Griner during Friday’s hearing and that she is doing “as well as can be expected in these circumstances.”
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration reclassified Griner’s arrest in Russia as a “wrongful detainment”, which added urgency to the United States’ efforts to negotiate with the Russians to bring Griner back to the States.
Griner’s detainment happened after officials said they discovered vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage, and according to ESPN, the offense could carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. She was returning to the country to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg, her Russian club that she plays with during the WNBA offseason.
Griner’s hearing on Friday was held six days early, and now there may be some additional clarity as to why. Russia’s state news agency has reported that U.S. diplomats have spoken with Russian authorities about a potential prisoner swap of Griner and convicted Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout. However according to The Washington Post, this has not been confirmed by an American media outlet, and the State Department did not directly address the question. Bout is in the middle of a 25-year federal prison sentence for smuggling arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for its use against U.S. armed forces.
Barring a swap of Griner and Bout that would bring the WNBA star back to the United States sooner, the next update on Griner’s case will not be heard in Russian Court until June.