The wife of Brittney Griner says she has spoken to her just twice by phone since her detention in Russia in February and that the W.N.B.A. star is afraid of being “left and forgotten.”
Cherelle Griner, Brittney Griner’s wife, said in an interview aired on Thursday by “CBS Mornings” that she found relief in the first call, but she heard exhaustion and fatigue in her wife’s voice during the second call.
“I think I cried for about two, three days straight,” she said. “It was the most disturbing phone call I’d ever experienced.”
Cherelle Griner did not specify when the second phone call occurred, but described her wife at the lowest emotional point that she could recall. “She’s very afraid about being left and forgotten in Russia, or just completely used to the point of her detriment,” Cherelle Griner said.
Brittney Griner, 31, was stopped on drug charges at an airport near Moscow: Customs officials accused her of carrying vape cartridges with hashish oil in her luggage. She was returning to Russia to play for UMMC Yekaterinburg, a powerhouse professional women’s basketball team.
In August, a Russian court sentenced her to nine years in prison.
Her detention arrived at a delicate geopolitical moment near the beginning of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine amid Russia’s strained diplomatic relationship with the United States. In May, the State Department determined that she had been wrongfully detained.
In June, the Biden administration offered to release the Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who was convicted in Russia of espionage charges.
“He’s doing what he can,” Cherelle Griner said of President Biden. “But there’s another party in this situation, and we also are dealing with the need for Russia to have mercy on B.G. as well.”
An appeal hearing for Brittney Griner is set for Oct. 25.
“Once that hearing is held, and the order is finalized, B.G.’s now in the position where she could be moved to a labor camp,” Cherelle Griner said. “My brain can’t even fathom it.”