US Secretary of State declares support for Brittney Griner in Russia

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U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Sunday that the United States will “provide every possible assistance” to citizens who are being held in foreign countries. His comments come in response to the detainment of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been held in Russia for reportedly traveling with hashish oil in her luggage in February.

According to a statement released by the Russian Federal Customs Service and obtained by the New York Times, a criminal case has been opened into the “large-scale transportation of drugs.” It carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years in Russia.

Griner’s detainment comes as Russia continues its military invasion of Ukraine. Multiple attempts at a ceasefire have been attempted in the past few days to allow Ukrainian citizens to evacuate.

“There’s only so much I can say given the privacy considerations at this point,” Blinken said of Griner. “Whenever an American is detained anywhere in the world, we of course stand ready to provide every possible assistance, and that includes in Russia.

“We have an embassy team that’s working on the cases of other Americans who are detained in Russia. We’re doing everything we can to see to it that their rights are upheld and respected.”

On Jan. 23, the State Department issued a “do not travel” advisory for Russia, warning Americans against travel to the country because of “the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens, the embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, COVID-19 and related entry restrictions, terrorism, harassment by Russian government security officials, and the arbitrary enforcement of local law.” Another travel advisory was issued Saturday.

Griner, who has played nine seasons with the Phoenix Mercury, is one of many WNBA players who plays overseas during the winter. She spent this offseason playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg.

Other WNBA players, including reigning MVP Jonquel Jones, have evacuated Russia and Ukraine amid the escalating conflict, while FIBA has banned Ekaterinburg and other Russian teams from competing in the EuroLeague playoffs that are scheduled to begin Tuesday.