U.S. working to secure release of basketball star detained by Russia


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Diplomats had been working to make sure the release of seven-time WNBA All-Star participant Brittney Griner after Russia stated it had detained the participant final month for possession of vape cartridges containing hash oil, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated on Sunday.

The Russian Customs Service, with out naming Griner, stated on Saturday that it had detained an athlete in February after the participant arrived at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on a flight from New York.

Russian information company TASS recognized the participant as Griner, citing a supply. Griner’s WNBA group, the Phoenix Mercury, stated: “We are conscious of and are intently monitoring the state of affairs with Brittney Griner in Russia.”

A scan of the participant’s baggage revealed cartridges containing “liquid with cannabis oil”, and a prison case has been opened carrying a doable sentence of 5 to 10 years in jail, the customs service stated.

It was not clear when in February Griner, who performs in Russia throughout the WNBA’s winter low season, was detained. The participant continues to be in custody and an investigation is underway, the Russian Customs Service stated.

Griner, who gained Olympic gold medals with the U.S. nationwide groups in 2016 and 2021, “has all the time dealt with herself with the utmost professionalism throughout her lengthy tenure with USA Basketball,” USA Basketball stated on Twitter.

At a joint press convention with Moldova President Maia Sandu on Sunday, Blinken stated the Biden administration had assigned an embassy group to work on Griner’s case.

“There’s solely a lot I can say given the privateness issues at this level,” Blinken stated of Griner. “Whenever an American is detained anyplace on this planet, we of course stand prepared to present each doable help, and that features in Russia.”

He added, “We have an embassy group that’s working on the circumstances of different Americans who’re detained in Russia. We’re doing every little thing we will to see to it that their rights are upheld and revered.”

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 and Western nations’ sweeping sanctions geared toward isolating Moscow, the United States on Saturday warned in opposition to journey to Russia and stated its embassy there had restricted potential to help residents.

LGBTQ rights advocates expressed specific concern for Griner in mild of the truth that she is an brazenly homosexual lady being detained in a rustic that has a document of proscribing LGBTQ rights.

“Our ideas are with Brittney Griner, her family members, and her teammates throughout this terrifying ordeal,” a spokesperson for Athlete Ally, a company that advocates for LGBTQ rights in sports activities, stated on Sunday. “Brittney has long been a powerful voice for LGBTQ+ equality. It’s critical that now we use our collective voice to call for her safe and swift return to her family.”

Griner’s spouse, Cherelle Griner, posted on Instagram on Saturday that she appreciated the prayers and assist she had acquired following Brittney’s detention. “This message comes throughout one of the weakest moments of my life,” she wrote. “Please honor our privateness as we proceed to work on getting my spouse house safely.”

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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