Washington – The US State Department has ruled that Russia has wrongfully arrested American basketball player Brittney Griner, a department spokesperson said in a statement.
Russia said it arrested seven-time WNBA All-Star player Griner in February for possessing hash oil-containing vaporizer cartridges.
The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Russia arrested Griner amid mounting tensions between Washington and Moscow over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but US officials had not previously established that she was being held unfairly.
“Brittney was detained for 75 days and our expectation is that the White House will do whatever it takes to bring her home,” said Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas.
The WNBA regular season starts on Friday. The league said on Tuesday that Griner’s initials and the number 42 shirt will be printed on the fields of all 12 teams.
The United States complained that Russia does not grant regular access to Americans detained there, although Griner was granted consular access and a consular official visited her on March 23, the spokesman said.
“The US government will continue to work to provide adequate support for Ms. Griner,” the statement said. Griner’s case was now being handled by Roger Carstens, the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, the spokesman said.
Asked about Griner and the State Department’s determination, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki declined to comment on reporters traveling with Biden on Air Force One and referred to US policy in an attempt to secure detained Americans. .
Russia returned another US citizen, former US Marine Trevor Reed, last week in a prisoner swap with a Russian pilot convicted of drug trafficking.
Another former marine, Paul Whelan, remains detained in Russia after being sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges in June 2020.
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