Russia Won’t Allow US Officials to Visit Detained WNBA Star

Russia Won't Allow US Officials to Visit Detained WNBA Star

( – A US athlete detained in Russia isn’t getting any help from diplomats – because the Russians are being obstructive. US officials say they haven’t been allowed access to basketball star Brittney Griner, who’s being held on drug charges. It looks like the Kremlin may be planning to exploit this detained American for political leverage.

On March 17, a State Department spokesman told journalists that US Consulate officials have been trying to visit the WNBA player, who was arrested on February 17 after Russian customs allegedly found vape cartridges filled with CBD oil – a marijuana extract – in her luggage. Under Russian law, possession of a “small amount” (up to ten normal doses) of a banned drug like THC is punishable by a fine of up to $500 or “corrective labor” for up to 480 hours.

As a US citizen detained in a foreign country, Griner has a right to be visited by US consular officials. However, the State Department said they have “consistently been denied access” to Griner and other detainees. The day after that statement, Russian authorities announced that Griner’s pre-trial detention had been extended for two months to May 18.

Griner’s arrest came a week before Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, when tensions with the US were already rising fast. Now they’ve made it clear she won’t be released anytime soon. Is this a straightforward drug-smuggling case, or does Russia think they can apply pressure on the US government by detaining our citizens?

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