The US has demanded that Russia allow consular access to WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been detained there since mid-February on suspicion of drug possession, The Associated Press reports.
The demand was made on Friday after the 31-year-old was hit with allegations of drug smuggling and imprisoned as a result.
In a statement, the State Department wrote: “We are closely engaged on this case and in frequent contact with Brittney Griner’s legal team. We insist the Russian government provide consular access to all US citizen detainees in Russia, including those in pre-trial detention, as Brittney Griner is.”
The statement continued: “We have repeatedly asked for consular access to these detainees and have consistently been denied access.”
The Phoenix Mercury star was detained by authorities after arriving at an airport in Moscow in February, after a search of her luggage allegedly revealed vape cartridges that contained an oil which derives from cannabis. This could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. It was reported on Thursday that a court had extended Griner's pretrial detention to May 19.[[imagecaption|| Credit: Independent Photo Agency / Alamy]]
A member of a Russian state-backed prison monitoring group said Griner was handling her imprisonment well.
Ekaterina Kalugina spoke to The Associated Press on Friday, telling the outlet that she had visited Griner some days earlier at the pretrial detention facility outside of Moscow, where she's being detained. Kalugina said she spoke to her with the assistance of a fellow inmate who speaks both Russian and English and helped translate.
“Her physical condition is fine, she’s holding up fine, and I’d even say that she is fairly calm and isn’t anxious,” Kalugina said.
Kalugina said Griner is being detained at the facility where an Israeli woman, Naama Issachar, was held before Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned her in 2020.
Russian authorities allegedly found hashish in Issachar's luggage while she was transferring between flights in Moscow on her way from from India to Israel, at the same airport where Griner was detained.
Issachar was found guilty and sentenced to 7 and a half years in prison before she was released after spending nine months behind bars.