Hostage expert deployed as Russia detains US star Brittney Griner

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·Sports Reporter
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WNBA player Brittney Griner (pictured right) has been detained in Russia. (Images: CNN/Getty Images)
WNBA player Brittney Griner (pictured right) has been detained in Russia. (Images: CNN/Getty Images)

The US State Department has announced Russia has 'wrongfully' detained national basketball star Brittney Griner as the case is turned over to hostage affairs.

Griner was detained in February after cannabis oil was found in vape cartridges in her luggage, according to reports.

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Russia detained Griner amid soaring tensions between Washington and Moscow over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but US officials had not previously determined that she was wrongfully detained.

Griner has been detained for more than 75 days and a spokesperson for the US State Department said the case had been handed to Roger Carstens, a special presidential envoy for hostage affairs.

"The US government will continue to undertake efforts to provide appropriate support to Ms Griner," the statement read.

Asked about Griner and the State Department's determination, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to comment to reporters traveling with Biden on Air Force One and referred to US policy in trying to secure detained Americans.

Russia returned another US citizen, former US Marine Trevor Reed, last week in a prisoner swap for a Russian pilot convicted of drug smuggling.

The WNBA's regular season is set to tip off this week.

The league said Tuesday that Griner's initials and jersey number 42 will be stencilled onto the courts of all 12 teams.

First image released of Brittney Griner

In March, the first image of Griner in detention was released.

After Griner was placed under arrest the undated image was aired by Russian media, which featured her holding up a piece of paper with her name scrawled on it.

At the time, the Russian Federal Customs Service said Griner, who was not named in their statement via Russia’s Interfax News Agency, "was passing through the green channel at Sheremetyevo Airport upon arriving from New York."

A fan holds a 'Free Brittney' sign in reference to WNBA star Brittney Griner who is being held in a Russian prison.
A fan holds a 'Free Brittney' sign in reference to WNBA star Brittney Griner who is being held in a Russian prison. (Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Griner publicly said she was gay in 2013 after the WNBA draft and has said it was an "open secret" during her college career, but she was asked not to discuss it.

LGBTQ+ advocates have voiced particular concern for Griner based on Russia's anti-LGBTQ stances and laws.

"Our thoughts are with Brittney Griner, her loved ones, and her teammates during this terrifying ordeal," said a spokesperson for Athlete Ally, an organisation that advocates for LGBTQ rights in sports.

“Brittney has long been a powerful voice for LGBTQ equality. It's critical that now we use our collective voice to call for her safe and swift return to her family.”

with Reuters

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