Photo of detained Brittney Griner released by Russian state TV
Russian state television released a photo of Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, supposedly taken after she was arrested on drug charges last month.
The picture obtained by CNN on Tuesday is not dated, but according to Russian officials, it was taken at a police station.
Griner was detained at a Moscow airport after Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges. They were identified as containing oil derived from cannabis, which could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
“An expert determined that the liquid is a narcotic drug, cannabis oil,” an official said on Russian state TV, according to a translation from CNN. “A criminal case has been opened against an American citizen for smuggling a significant amount of drugs.”
Russian state TV has released a photo of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was arrested on drug charges in the country after Russian officials say cannabis oil was found in her luggage. CNN's @RosaFlores has the story. pic.twitter.com/SzB9MSSQfY
— CNN (@CNN) March 8, 2022
It is still not known when exactly Griner was arrested, though her wife said it happened in February.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday the U.S. will provide assistance to any American citizen being held on foreign soil.
“There’s only so much I can say given the privacy considerations at this point. Whenever an American is detained anywhere in the world, we of course stand ready to provide every possible assistance, and that includes in Russia,” Blinken said. “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.”
The Russian Customs Service said Saturday that it identified the person arrested as a player for the U.S. women’s team and did not specify the date of her arrest. Russian media reported the player was Griner, and her agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, did not dispute those reports.
“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,” Kagawa Colas said 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.”
Griner has played in Russia for the last seven years in the winter, earning over $1 million per season — more than quadruple her WNBA salary. She last played for her Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg on Jan. 29 before the league took a two-week break in early February for the FIBA World Cup qualifying tournaments.
More than a dozen WNBA players were playing in Russia and Ukraine this winter. The WNBA confirmed Saturday that all players besides Griner had left both countries as Russia continues its war across Ukraine’s border.
“We are aware of and are closely monitoring the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia. We remain in constant contact with her family, her representation, the WNBA and NBA,” the Mercury said in a statement released Saturday. “We love and support Brittney and at this time our main concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.