WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner is being detained in Russia after Customs Agents said found vape cartridges that contained hash oil in her luggage, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, at the Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow.
The customs service released a video of an individual who appeared to be the 6-foot-9 Griner going through airport security, wearing a mask and black sweatshirt, and having a package removed from her bag.
"We are aware of the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia and are in close contact with her, her legal representation in Russia, her family, her teams, and the WNBA and NBA," Lindsay Kagawa Colas, Griner's agent told ESPN via statement Saturday. "As this is an ongoing legal matter, we are not able to comment further on the specifics of her case but can confirm that as we work to get her home, her mental and physical health remain our primary concern."
The screening and video apparently occurred in February, according to media reports, raising the possibility that Griner has been in custody for at least a week and that a criminal case has been opened into the large-scale transportation of drugs.
USA Basketball, which oversees the Olympics teams, and the WNBA players’ union also released statements expressing support for Griner.
The arrest of a high-profile American amid escalating conflict created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could be seen as Russia’s attempt to create leverage for a potential prisoner exchange with the U.S. government or a reduction in sanctions related to the invasion, speculated the New York Times.
Many WNBA players compete in Russia, where salaries are more lucrative, during the American league’s off-season, most recently in Russia. Griner has played for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg for several years.
The State Department issued a "do not travel'' advisory for Russia on Jan. 23 that warned Americans against traveling to Russia.
Another "do not travel" advisory was issued Saturday.
Some American players began making plans to leave Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, and a WNBA spokeswoman said on Saturday that all WNBA. players besides Griner were out of Russia and Ukraine.
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