A Russian court on Tuesday ordered that Brittney Griner, the WNBA star the country has detained since February, would be held for at least an additional 18 days, until July 2. The extension, reported by the Russian state news agency Tass, came in response to investigators who demanded more time to bring their case against her. It’s the latest setback for Griner, whose eventual return to the U.S. looks more and more uncertain.
Russian authorities have accused Griner, who for years played in a Russian women’s league, of carrying vape cartridges with hashish oil into the country. But the seriousness of the charges against her — “drug smuggling,” which is punishable by up to ten years in prison — points to possible political motivations. The State Department labeled her as “wrongfully detained” in May. Griner’s detention came just days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but was publicized only afterward. The war has dramatically worsened already dismal relations between the U.S. and Russia. Griner’s supporters hold out hope that she can be freed as part of a prisoner swap, as happened in the case of Trevor Reed, who was released from Russia in April.
At first, Griner’s family, teammates, and supporters kept mostly quiet about her plight, hoping that a low-key approach would help hasten her release. When that strategy failed, they mounted a more public campaign, with WNBA and NBA stars frequently speaking about her ordeal and sporting her initials on their clothing. State Department officials recently met with members of Griner’s WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, to discuss steps they’re taking to secure her release.
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