The world has been waiting for news about Brittney Griner after she was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, less than a week before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, per the Associated Press. Since then, Brittney, 31, has remained in Russian custody on charges of large-scale transportation of drugs. In the first clear photos of the American sports star since her arrest, Brittney appeared uneased as she was led into a preliminary hearing at a court in the Moscow suburb of Khimki. The closed-doors hearing extended Griner’s detention for another six months. Her trial currently has a July 1 date, per the AP.
Brittney did appear in May, when the Russian officials extended her detention period for another month. However, her face was obscured by her long hair as she kept her head down. The WNBA star also wore an orange hoodie that helped hide her face.
At first, Brittney’s supporters had taken a low profile hoping for a quick and quiet resolution. When those efforts fell apart in May, the State Department reclassified her as wrongfully detained, per the AP, and then shifted her case to its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs. Basically, the United States government’s chief negotiator is on the case.
“There is one person that can go get her, and that’s our President,” Brittney’s wife, Cherelle Griner told ESPN in an interview airing May 25. “He has that power. I’m just like, ‘Why are we not using it? Like, urgently, use it.’ We’re expecting him to use his power to get it done.” In another interview, Cherelle said, “I just keep hearing that, you know, [Biden] has the power. She’s a political pawn. So if they’re holding her because they want you to do something, then I want you to do it.”
The AP reports that Brittney might be included in a prisoner swap, with Russian news media raising speculation that she might be exchanged for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms trader nicknamed “The Merchant of Death.” Viktor is serving a 25-year sentence on conviction of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organization. Brittney was arrested for having vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, while Bout’s crimes are involved in the deadly global arms trade. So, such a swap would seem like a poor deal on the U.S.’s side.
If convicted, Brittney could face up to 10 years in prison. The AP reports that “fewer than 1% of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike in the U.S., acquittals can be overturned.”