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American Professional Basketball Player Brittney Griner Detained in Russia

By: Angela Li

Pictures of W.N.B.A star Brittney Griner being led into a courthouse outside Moscow have been released on the internet this week before her trial on drug charges that begins on Friday. This is a rare glimpse of Griner after her four-month detainment in Russia. Griner was arrested in Russia on February 17, when authorities held her at Sheremetyevo International Airport outside Moscow after finding vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. Cannabis is illegal in Russia. If proven Griner was indeed carrying the items, she could be sentenced to up to 10 years in a penal colony.

Several pictures have shown Brittney Griner appearing worried, stuck in a country with a language she doesn’t speak. The only way Griner has been able to communicate with her wife is through letters. In the pictures, she was wearing a gray t-shirt with round glasses and a jacket around her waist. She is also seen with handcuffs on her wrists and another set of handcuffs attached to her waist that is cuffed to a guard's arm. U.S. officials were at first hesitant to make any risky moves on behalf of Griner due to Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine, but in May 2022, the State Department declared that the Phoenix Mercury player had been “wrongfully detained.” This meant that officials could immediately begin negotiating for her release rather than waiting until her next Russian court hearing.

“We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas,” the State Department said in a statement Monday after Griner’s latest court hearing. “The Department of State has determined that the Russian Federation has wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Brittney Griner. The U.S. government will continue to provide appropriate support to Ms. Griner and her family. We will continue to press for her release.” Even though she is still currently being detained and handcuffed in Russia for the “wrong reasons,” she still towers over the Russian guards and moves with confidence.

"… As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever," the WNBA superstar wrote in her letter to President Joe Biden.


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