Brittney Griner, the WNBA star arrested in Russia this February for allegedly bringing drugs into the country, is not a hostage, a Kremlin spokesperson said.
Dimtry Peskov told NBC this week he “would strongly disagree” with the US State Department’s classification of Griner as a “wrongfully detained.”
“We can not call her a hostage,” Peskov told the outlet. “She violated Russian law, and now she’s being prosecuted.”
“Why should we make an exemption for a foreign citizen?” Peskov said.
He added that Griner was not unlike “hundreds and hundreds of Russian citizens that were sentenced for carrying hashish.”
But Griner has yet to see her day in Russian court, with her pre-trial detention extended multiple times since her arrest.
The 31-year-old All-star was arrested at a Moscow airport in mid-February for allegedly having cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage. She was entering the country in order to play for a Russian team during the WNBA’s off season, as she has for the past several years.
In May, the White House sent her case to the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, a State Department team tasked with negotiating the release of Americans being held hostage and others classified as being wrongfully detained in other countries.
Russian authorities have previously said Griner’s arrest was based on “objective facts and evidence.”
“She was caught red-handed while trying to smuggle hash oil,” Moscow said in a statement last month. “In Russia this is a crime.”
Griner’s detention came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington over Russia’s imminent invasion of Ukraine. She faces five to 10 years in Russian prison if convicted on drug smuggling charges.