Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17 after being arrested in an airport near Moscow. The latest update about the 31-year-old WNBA player’s situation arrives this week through Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, who disputed the State Department’s position that Griner is a Russian hostage.
In an exclusive interview with NBC News’ Keir Simmons, Peskov said Griner was no different than “hundreds and hundreds of Russian citizens that were sentenced for carrying hashish.” Russian officials claimed at the time that they found cannabis oil in her luggage, an offense that carries a 10-year prison sentence.
“Why should we make an exemption for a foreign citizen?” he added. “She violated Russian law, and now she’s being prosecuted. It’s not about being a hostage. There are lots of American citizens here. They’re enjoying their freedoms … but you have to obey the laws.”
In related news, Griner also reportedly tried to call her wife 11 times through the U.S. Embassy in Russia on the couple’s fourth anniversary this past Saturday (June 18) but was unable to reach her. Cherelle Griner learned from her wife’s lawyers on Monday (June 20) that the multiple call attempts never went through because the desk at the embassy where the phone rang was apparently unstaffed. Brittney Griner was dialing a number she’d been given at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, which the couple was told would be used to patch the call through.
“I was distraught. I was hurt. I was done, fed up,” Cherelle Griner told The Associated Press in an interview about how the occurrence left her so distraught, she was unable to give an update immediately afterwards. It has been four months since the couple was last able to speak on the phone.
“I’m pretty sure I texted BG’s agent and was like: ‘I don’t want to talk to anybody.’ It’s going to take me a minute to get my emotions together and just tell everybody I’m unavailable right now. Because it just knocked me out. I wasn’t well, I’m still not well,” she added.