According to Russian state news agency Tass, American women’s basketball star Brittney Griner’s detention in Russia has been extended once again. The latest extension, the third since she was originally detained back in February, means Griner will be in Russian custody until at least July 2.
In addition to the extended detention, Tass also reported that Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia will not consider including Griner in a detainee swap “until a court investigation into her case is completed.” He was responding to media reports saying the Biden administration had offered to exchange convicted arms trader Viktor Bout for Griner.
“This case is problematic from top to bottom,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at his daily briefing Tuesday, telling reporters it was his understanding that department officials only learned of the extension through the Tass report. “It is precisely why we have characterized Brittney Griner as an unlawful detainee. It’s precisely why we are doing everything we can to seek and to affect her prompt release from Russian detention.”
Griner was detained after vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis were allegedly found in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. However last month, the department determined Griner was being held wrongfully. On Monday, the department met with members of Griner’s WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury.
“It was just nice to hear from the people at the very top knowing that they’re working relentlessly,” star Mercury guard Diana Taurasi said. “We’re here to do whatever we can to make sure we amplify and keep [Griner] at the forefront of the things that we want to do.”
In a statement posted to the Mercury’s Twitter account after the meeting, head coach Vanessa Nygaard added “she’s our teammate, she’s an American and we want her back home.”
After meeting with the department, the Mercury players and staff met with Rep. Greg Stanton (D-AZ) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). Rep. Lee is from Griner’s hometown of Houston.
“For the team, coaches and executives at the Mercury, every day without Brittney is a lifetime,” Rep. Stanton said. “I was glad for the opportunity to share the work we’re doing in Congress to secure Brittney’s release.”