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American basketball star ‘unfairly detained’ in Russia

The Biden administration has determined that WNBA star Brittney Griner is being wrongfully detained in Russia, meaning the United States will more aggressively work to obtain her release already as the legal case against her plays out, two U.S. officials said Tuesday.

Griner was detained at an airport in February after Russian authorities said a search of her bag revealed vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis. Since then, US officials had stopped short of classifying the Phoenix Mercury player as wrongfully detained and said instead that their focus was on ensuring that she had access in jail to American consular affairs officials.

Now, though, US officials have shifted supervision of her case to a State Department section — the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs — that is focused on negotiating for the release of hostages and other Americans classified as being wrongfully detained in other countries.

“Brittney has been detained for 75 days and our expectation is that the White House do in any case is necessary to bring her home,” said Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas.

The president of the WNBA players’ union, Nneka Ogwumike, noted in a separate statement that “it has been 75 days that our friend, teammate, sister, Brittney Griner, has been wrongfully detained in Russia.”

“It is time for her to come home,” Ogwumike additional. “Having learned that the US government has now determined that BG is being wrongfully detained we are hopeful that their efforts will be meaningful, rapid and successful.”

It was unclear what prompted the shift in approach to Griner’s case, though President Joe Biden’s administration had been under pressure from members of Congress and others to make her release a priority.

(AP)

FILE – Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner pauses on the court during the second half of a WNBA basketball game against the Seattle Storm, Sept. 3, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)



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