Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport in February when Russian authorities claimed she had cannabis oil in her luggage and charged her with smuggling large amounts of a narcotic, an offense punishable by 10 years in prison. The two-time Olympic gold medalist and star of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury is playing in Russia during the league’s offseason.
“Our position for some time on this has been very clear: Brittney Griner should not be detained. She should not be detained for one more day,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday. .
The State Department learned of the news through Russian state media, Price said. The United States last had consular access to Griner last month, he told reporters.
Her teammates ‘want her to come home’
“We’re on day 116 since BG was wrongfully detained,” Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard said, adding, “She’s our teammate, she’s an American and we want her back. at home.”
For star guard Diana Taurasi, the State Department’s announcement that Griner’s detention was abusive signaled to the team that officials are taking the situation seriously, she said Monday.
“It’s something we’ve all talked about intimately as a group, and now know the State Department at the highest level – from US President Joe Biden to the team working to bring back all wrongfully detained Americans – gives we are very confident that they are working on it,” Taurasi said.
“Anything we can do on our side to amplify and prioritize BG will be our #1 priority,” she said.
Holding Russia accountable “will force Russia to end this practice for all Americans they hold there,” including Griner and Paul Whelan, Reed told CNN. Whelan, a US citizen and former Marine, was detained in a Moscow hotel in 2018 and arrested for espionage, which he denied.
CNN has reached out to the UN and Russia’s Permanent Mission to the UN to comment on Reed’s petition.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.