Brittney Griner found to be in 'good condition' after US gains consular access to her
A little over a month into Brittney Griner’s detainment at a Russian prison, the U.S. has gained consular access to the WNBA star.
An official from the American embassy in Russia checked on Griner “within the past couple hours,” U.S. Department of State spokesman Ned Price revealed on CNN on Wednesday morning. Price said the U.S. official found Griner to be in “good condition” but declined to provide further details about the visit.
[UPDATE: Brittney Griner released from Russian prison 10 months after arrest]
“We will continue to do everything we can to see to it that she is treated fairly throughout this ordeal,” Price said.
Griner was originally detained after flying into a Moscow airport about a week before Russia’s assault on Ukraine began. She is under investigation for large-scale transportation of drugs and facing up to 10 years in prison after Russian customs officials allegedly found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.
Griner learned at a pretrial hearing last Thursday that she will be held behind bars until at least May 19 after her Russian attorney unsuccessfully challenged the legality of her arrest and failed in attempts to have her transferred to house arrest. A person close to the situation told Yahoo Sports last Thursday that the denial of Griner’s appeal was “not unexpected.”
The pretrial hearing was the first step in what’s likely to be a long journey for Griner through Russia’s legal system. A trial date for Griner cannot be set until Russian authorities are done investigating the case. If the investigation is not finished by May 19, another hearing would occur to determine how much longer the court would extend Griner’s detention.
Griner had been meeting with her Russian legal team multiple times per week while the U.S. pushed to gain consular access to her. Ekaterina Kalugina, a human rights activist from Russia’s Public Monitoring Commission, also met with Griner, telling the Russian state news agency, TASS, last week that Griner shares a prison cell with two other women, both of whom are facing drug charges.
Griner was flying into Moscow in mid-February to rejoin her Russian team, which at the time was set to resume play after a two-week international break for World Cup qualifying. For the past six years, Griner has played for European basketball powerhouse UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason to supplement her income.
The timing of Griner’s arrest has raised concerns her fate could become entangled in the conflict between Russia and the West over the war in Ukraine. A former Pentagon official told Yahoo Sports that Griner is at risk of going from criminal defendant to “high-profile hostage” if Russian president Vladimir Putin views her as a potential bargaining chip.