WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner received bad news from a Moscow court today, as her arrest has been extended to May 19, from CNN via Russian state news agency TASS. “The court granted the request of the investigation and extended the period of detention of the US citizen Griner until May 19,” the court said, per TASS.
As we previously reported at The Root, Griner has been held in Russia since Feb. 17 after police claimed vape cartridges containing hash oil were found in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. Though American citizens were encouraged to leave the country ahead of its invasion of Ukraine, Griner was rejoining her Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg.
In its report, TASS also noted that Ekaterina Kalugina, whom it called a representative of Moscow’s Public Monitoring Commission, which “observes the treatment of prisoners,” visited Griner at her pre-trial detention center and said that “despite Russian authorities’ willingness to ‘create all conditions’ for their visit,” the US consul has not seen Griner.
This contradicts previous statements from Texas congressman Colin Allred (D-TX), who said that Griner was denied access to embassy and consular services. Though the congressman is working with the State Department to get the basketball star released, he says the current lack of diplomacy between the United States and Russia makes Griner’s situation difficult.
“My office has been in touch with the State Department, and we’re working with them to see what is the best way forward,” Allred said. “I know the administration is working hard to try and get access to her and try to be helpful here. But obviously, it’s also happening in the context of really strained relations. I do think that it’s really unusual that we’ve not been granted access to her from our embassy and our consular services.”
In addition to USA Basketball, the WNBA, the Phoenix Mercury and numerous teammates and opponents, count former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton among Griner’s supporters. She tweeted a BBC story on Griner’s detention with the caption “Free Brittney.”
With no diplomatic relations between Russia and the US, and Russia’s lack of transparency, it’s important that we don’t let this story disappear. As a high-profile queer woman of color in a country with anti-LGBTQ+ laws, this situation can go from horrible to tragic without anyone ever knowing the truth.