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Why Is Brittney Griner Detained in Russia?

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 10: Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury during pregame warm up at Footprint Center on October 10, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTICE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph, the user agrees to the terms of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Mattina/Getty Images)

Brittney Griner, an American basketball player for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, is still stuck in Russia. She was arrested at a Russian airport in February after Russian officials claimed they found vape cartridges containing hash (or hash) oil in her luggage. On June 27, Griner appeared for a preliminary hearing in a Russian court. She “arrived at court on Monday, handcuffed and flanked by guards in black tactical vests,” per CNN. Her criminal trial was set for July 1, and “the court ruled that Griner’s detention should be extended by six months pending her trial.”

This news comes after a series of already frustrating additions. On June 14, according to NPR, it was announced that Griner’s detention would be extended until at least July 2. And before that, on May 13, Griner’s attorney Alexander Boykov announced that the WNBA athlete’s pre-trial detention would last another month, according to a report by The Associated Press. “[Boykov] believed that the relatively short extension of the detention indicated that the case would soon come to court,” the above-mentioned report said. But that is clearly no longer the case.

The US government has ruled this a wrongful detention, according to a May 3 report by CNN, based on information provided to the newspaper by a US State Department official. Previously, Griner did not have a solid classification status from the US government. This is notable because it means the US government is trying to negotiate Griner’s return instead of waiting for the case to work its way through the Russian legal system, according to a ESPN Report. ESPN also noted that “the Special Envoy of the President for hostage matters Roger Carstens will (now) lead the interagency team to secure the release of Brittney Griner.” Carstens was one of the key diplomats in securing the release of formerly imprisoned US citizen Trevor Reed from Russia, as of April 28 CNN Report.

But Cherelle Griner, wife of Brittney Griner, told the Associated Press that she has “zero trust” in the US government given the way her wife’s detention has been handled so far.

Since his arrest, officers have been able to screen Griner. During a March 23rd CNN On the broadcast, US State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed that a US embassy official was granted “consular access” to Griner and that she was able to check on her condition in Russian custody. “Our officer has determined that Brittney Griner is in good health and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure she is treated fairly during this ordeal,” Price said. But what was Griner in Russia anyway? Here’s everything we know about the situation.

Why was Brittney Griner in Russia?

Griner flew to Russia to play in the UMMC Ekaterinburg team. The 31-year-old was a member of the Russian basketball team for several WNBA off-seasons. But this particular trip came at a tense time; Griner was arrested shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine. The US State Department had issued a “Do Not Travel” notice weeks earlier, citing the ongoing tensions.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist could have decided to play abroad this off-season for many different reasons – including to earn some extra cash. WNBA players typically make between $60,000 and $229,000, while NBA players can make over $40 million. According to an Associated Press report, “half of the WNBA’s 144 players” went overseas during the 2022 offseason, with top-ranked athletes earning more than $1 million. WNBA athlete Liz Cambage continued NBA today that she could earn “five to eight times more” if she plays abroad.

When will Brittney Griner be released?

In mid-March, NBC reported that the basketball player’s detention had been extended until May, according to information from the Russian state news agency TASS. “The court granted the request for an investigation and extended the US citizen’s detention period [Griner] until May 19,” TASS reported, according to NBC. However, on May 13, Griner’s attorney announced that the two-time Olympian would be incarcerated for another month. Then, in early June, Griner’s detention was again extended until, according to NPR at least July 2, though her release date is unknown. On June 27, Griner has an official trial date of July 1, and Russian courts have ruled that her detention pending trial will be extended by six months.

Griner’s detention comes amid US sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro viewed Russia’s decision to arrest the athlete as a political move. tweet“I’m following Texan’s reports closely @brittneygriner‘s detention in Russia. This follows the pattern of Russia unfairly detaining and imprisoning US citizens. . . US citizens are not political pawns.”

Moscow “will not consider including Griner in a detainee exchange ‘until a judicial investigation into her case is completed,'” according to a TASS report cited by NPR. Griner reportedly shares a cell with two inmates who “had no criminal record and are charged with drug-related articles,” according to a statement by Public Monitoring Commission member Ekaterina Kalugina in March, per NBC.

Griner’s wrongful detention and repeated extensions have sparked outrage from her family, teammates, fans, human rights organizations and more. The #FreeBrittneyGriner movement has sprung up on social media. And on June 22, several groups, including the National Organization for Women, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Urban League and the National Action Network, collectively banned a letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, according to the New York Times. The letter called on the government to “make a deal to bring Brittney home to America immediately and safely.”

What is hash oil?

Hash oil is derived from cannabis, an illegal substance in Russia. According to Article 228 of the Russian Criminal Code, persons who commit a crime related to the “illegal acquisition, storage, transportation, manufacture or processing of narcotics, psychotropic substances or their analogues” can face up to 10 years in prison.

— Additional reporting by Alexis Jones

https://www.popsugar.com/fitness/why-is-brittney-griner-detained-in-russia-48743991 Why Is Brittney Griner Detained in Russia?

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