Greiner was arrested at Moscow airport in February, when Russian authorities claimed she had cannabis oil in her luggage and accused her of smuggling large quantities of a narcotic substance, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA star Phoenix Mercury plays in Russia during that off-season league.
“Our position has been very clear on this for some time: Britney Grenier should not be detained. She should not be held for one day longer,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday.
Price said the State Department learned of the news through Russian state media reports. He told reporters that the last US consular visit to Griner was last month.
Teammates ‘want her to come home’
“We’re on 116th day since BJ was wrongfully arrested,” Mercury team manager Vanessa Nygaard said, adding, “She’s our teammate, she’s American and we want her to come home.”
For star Diana Torassi, the State Department’s announcement that Grenier’s arrest was a mistake signals to the team that officials are taking the situation seriously.
“It’s something we’ve all talked about intimately as a group, and now we know the State Department at the highest level — from US President Joe Biden to the team working to bring back all unjustly detained Americans — we have great confidence that they’re working on it,” Turasi said.
“Anything we can do on our part to amplify and put BG first will be our top priority,” she said.
Holding Russia responsible “will force Russia to end this practice for all the Americans it holds there,” Reid told CNN, including Greiner and Paul Whelan. Whelan, a US citizen and former Marine Corps captain, was detained in a Moscow hotel in 2018 and arrested on spying charges, which he denied.
CNN has reached out to the United Nations and the Permanent Mission of Russia to the United Nations for comment on Reade’s petition.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.
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