Russian court extends WNBA star Brittney Griner's detention to May 19

Russian court extends WNBA star Brittney Griner's detention to May 19
Brittney Griner plays for the Phoenix Mercury against the Minnesota Lynx at Target Center in Minneapolis. File Photo by Lorie Shaull/Wikimedia Commons

March 17 (UPI) -- A Russian court extended Olympian and WNBA star Brittney Griner's detention to May 19 after she was arrested Feb. 17 on a cannabis oil drug charge, the Russian state news agency TASS reported Thursday.

"The court granted the petition of the investigation and extended the term of detention of U.S. citizen [Griner] until May 19," TASS reported, citing the press service of the Khimki Court of the Moscow Region.


This pushes her detainment past the opening of the WNBA season, starting on May 6.

The Russian Federal Customs Service detained the 31-year-old, seven-time WNBA All-Star who plays for the Phoenix Mercury. On the same day of the announcement, the U.S. State Department issued a Do Not Travel advisory and warned Americans to leave Russia "immediately."

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The New York Times first reported the arrest occurred in February, which The Washington Post later said occurred on Feb. 17, a week before the Russia-Ukraine war began on Feb. 24.


The Phoenix Mercury player, who has won U.S. Olympic gold medals with the team in 2016 and 2021, was arrested after Russian authorities said they found vape cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage after scanning it at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.

The Customs Service added that a criminal case was initiated for "smuggling of narcotic drugs in a significant amount," which could result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years in Russia.

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In response, the USA Basketball and the WNBA players' union released statements of support for Griner posted to Twitter.

"Brittney has always handled herself with the utmost professionalism during her long tenure with USA Basketball and her safety and wellbeing are our primary concerns," USA Basketball said in its statement of support.

"Our utmost concern is BG's safety and well-being," the union statement said.

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Public Monitoring Commission member Ekaterina Kalugina told TASS that Griner has been sharing a cell with two inmates who "had no previous convictions and are charged with drug-related articles."

Kalugina added that Griner at 6-foot-9 inches is too tall for the standard jail bed, but has had no complaints, and she also said that Griner has ordered books, including a book by Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky and a biography of the Rolling Stones.


Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, posted twice on Instagram about her detention.

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"My heart, our hearts, are all skipping beats everyday that goes by," she said in one post. "I miss your voice. I miss your presence. You're our person! There are no words to express this pain. I'm hurting, we're hurting. We await the day to love on you as a family."

Griner last played for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg on Jan. 29 before a two-week break in early February for the FIBA World Cup qualifying tournaments.

Her extended detention comes amid heightening tension between Russia and the United States over the Russian-Ukraine war with U.S. President Joe Biden recently banning imports of Russian oil to keep up economic pressure on Moscow for its military campaign in Ukraine.

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The United States also recently placed sanctions on Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, Russian banks, and the country's elites and families supporting the war on Ukraine.

Biden also said last week he will work with Congress to suspend Moscow's permanent normal trade status with the United States in another blow to Russia's economy.

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