Russia extends detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner

FILE–WNBA star Brittney Griner. Mike Mattina/Getty Images/AFP

A Russian court on Tuesday extended until early July the pre-trial detention on drug charges of US basketball star Brittney Griner.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion, was detained at Moscow airport in February on charges of carrying in her luggage vape cartridges with cannabis oil, which could carry a 10-year prison sentence.

Griner’s detention came days before Russia defied US warnings and sent troops into Ukraine, prompting Western powers to impose sweeping sanctions and send military aid to Kyiv.

A court in the town of Khimki outside Moscow extended Griner’s arrest until July 2, a court representative told Russian journalists on Tuesday.

Washington says that Russia has “wrongfully detained” the six-foot-nine (2.06-meter) basketball star, 31, and turned her case over to the US special envoy in charge of hostages.

“Our position for some time on this has been very clear — Brittney Griner should not be detained… for a single day longer,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington.

He said that US officials met Monday with representatives of her team, the Phoenix Mercury, and were also seeking regular access to Griner.

The WNBA has also said it is working to bring Griner home.

She is considered among the greatest female basketball players and is a high points scorer.

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

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