The US on Friday demanded that Russia allow consular access to WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been locked up there since mid-February on suspicion of drug possession.
In a pointed statement, the State Department mentioned Griner by name for the first time since her imprisonment, a contrast to its prior low-key approach intended to defuse tensions amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“We are closely engaged on this case and in frequent contact with Brittney Griner’s legal team. We insist the Russian government provide consular access to all US citizen detainees in Russia, including those in pre-trial detention, as Brittney Griner is,” the statement said.
“We have repeatedly asked for consular access to these detainees and have consistently been denied access,” it added.
Griner, 31, who plays professionally in Russia in the offseason, was arrested after officials said they found hash oil in her vape cartridge at a Moscow airport.
Her pretrial detention was extended through May 19 on Thursday, according to Russian state media.
Despite the ordeal, the Phoenix Mercury and two-time Olympic champion was said to be in good spirits, according to a public monitoring commission that visits lockups outside of Russia.
“Her physical condition is fine, she’s holding up fine, and I’d even say that she is fairly calm and isn’t anxious,” said Ekaterina Kalugina.
Griner has had frequent meetings with her lawyers but has not yet met with US diplomats, said Kalugina, whose organization positions itself as independent but rarely clashes with the Kremlin on major issues.
Griner faces 10 years in prison if convicted of the cannabis charge.
US calls for Russia to release Marine veteran Trevor Reed and Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan, charged with assault and espionage respectively, have continued to fall on deaf ears.
With Post wires