WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner’s detainment in a Russian prison was extended by a month Friday after a court appearance, multiple reports stated. Griner had been expected to appear in court on May 19, despite not being formally charged with any crime. The early appearance yielding a short extension of her now-three-month detainment could signal the case moving to trial soon, Griner’s lawyer Alexander Boikov told The Associated Press. It’s unclear what exactly led to a change in Griner’s status.
Griner has been in a Russian prison after she allegedly tried to bring vape cartridges containing hashish oil into the country in mid-February. Her case shifted earlier this month, as the United States government now considers her to be wrongfully detained.
That shift means the U.S. isn’t waiting for Griner’s case to play out through Russia’s legal system and is negotiating her return to America, with no clear progress as of yet. The United States changing Griner’s status as a wrongful detainee doesn’t mean Russia will change its viewpoint on her arrest, evident in her continued jail time. It does mean America considers any Russian legal action irrelevant.
Griner’s detainment is particularly difficult because of Russia’s ongoing brutal war against Ukraine. Griner may be viewed as a powerful asset to Russian president Vladimir Putin and she may be a hostage in response to American sanctions against the country because of its needless invasion.
The longtime Phoenix Mercury star flew to Moscow to join her Euro League team, UMMC Ekaterinburg, in February. Griner has spent her international career in Russia since 2014, earning over $1 million per season, more than quadruple her yearly WNBA salary. She was detained at the airport when a search of her bags allegedly uncovered the vape cartridge.
Griner’s American teammates for UMMC Ekaterinburg, Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley, did leave Russia successfully months ago. Griner’s support system and the U.S. State Department had kept a low profile on Griner’s case until last week to not make her a more valuable asset to Putin
WNBA players and support from other parts of the U.S. government, have brought attention to Griner’s case since she was given wrongful-detainee status. The WNBA’s season officially began last week with the league adding floor decals with Griner’s initials and her number, 42, on the home-court sideline at every arena.