Brittney Griner case: For the Kremlin, the player is not a ‘hostage’ of the Russian justice system

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied Monday that U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner is a hostage of the Russian justice system.

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“We can’t call him a hostage – why should we call him a hostage? She violated Russian law. Now she is being criminally prosecuted,” Peskov said in an interview with MSNBC channel.

Kermlin’s stance

Peskov denied that with Griner’s remand imprisonment Russia is sending a “horrible message” to the world.

In the presidential spokesman’s opinion, what is a horrible message is “the attempt to bring banned substances into the country.”

“She is being prosecuted under Russian law. It is not only in Russia that there are such severe laws in that area. There are many countries to which you can’t bring drugs. That is prosecuted under the law. And we can’t do anything about it,” he added.

What is Brittney Griner’s legal situation?

Recently, the Russian judiciary extended for another 18 days the precautionary measure against Griner, who has been in a Moscow remand prison for almost four months.

The basketball player’s family has appealed to US President Joe Biden for Griner’s release, while both the WNBA and the NBA have also called for her release.

At the time, Russian media reported that Russia and the United States were negotiating a swap of Griner for Russian arms dealer Viktor But, known as the “merchant of death” and serving time in a U.S. prison.

Griner, a player for UGMK Yekaterinburg, was detained on February 17 at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after customs officials found cannabis oil in her bags.

Subsequently, the basketball player, who maintains her innocence, was arrested for drug smuggling, a detention that Washington considers unjustified.

Griner’s possible sentence

Griner, who has been playing for the Russian team since 2015, could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, as it is forbidden by law in Russia to enter the country with cannabis.

The UGMK, coached by the Spaniard Miguel Mendez, Spanish coach since 2021, has not made any public statement on the matter.

Like other U.S. players, Griner took advantage of the months when there is no competition in the WNBA to play in Europe, where she has a salary of more than $1 million, four times the maximum in the U.S.

Former US ambassador to the UN, Bill Richardson, is negotiating the trade of the 31-year-old player, a double World and Olympic champion with her country.

Recently, Russia and the US exchanged US student Trevor Reed, sentenced to nine years in prison for resisting arrest, for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, sentenced in the US to 20 years for drug smuggling.