US claims basketball star is ‘wrongfully detained’ in Russia

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Washington (AFP) – The United States said on Tuesday that Russia wrongfully detained basketball star Brittney Griner, a finding that intensifies efforts to free her more than two months after her arrest in Moscow.

“The State Department has determined that the Russian Federation wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Brittney Griner,” a State Department spokesperson said.

Calling the safety of American citizens “among the highest priorities of the U.S. government,” the spokesperson said the State Department would “provide appropriate support” to Griner.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion, was arrested at Moscow airport on February 17 for carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, which are illegal in Russia, in her luggage.

Washington had previously been granted consular access, but refrained from commenting on the nature of his detention.

The discovery comes nearly a week after the prisoner swap between the United States and Russia, a scene reminiscent of the Cold War amid rising tensions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

In the latest exchange, Russia released Trevor Reed, a former US Marine accused of a drunken fight with police.

The United States also claims that Russia wrongfully detained Paul Whelan, a former security manager for an auto parts company, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage.

Griner, 31, is considered one of the greatest basketball players with her ability to “dip” a ball.

She was playing club basketball in Russia before the resumption of the American season, a common practice for American stars in search of additional income.

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