Brittney Griner meets with US officials amid concerns over her well-being in Russian custody

Griner faces alleged drug charges and up to ten years in prison.

WNBA star Brittney Griner met with US officials on Thursday for the first time since being remanded in custody in Russia for more than a month, according to the US State Department.

“The consular officer who visited Brittney Griner was able to verify that she was doing as well as expected in these very difficult circumstances,” State Department spokesman Med Price told reporters Thursday.

“We will continue to work very closely with her legal team, with her extended network, to ensure that she is treated fairly and that her rights are respected,” he added.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist was visiting Russia to play off-season basketball and was arrested last month at a Moscow region airport for allegedly having vape cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage. , an illegal substance in Russia.

She faces drug charges of up to ten years in prison, according to Russian media.

Griner’s visit with officials from the US consular officer at the Embassy in Moscow comes after the State Department raised concerns about Griner’s well-being after Russia extended his pretrial detention until May 19.

Griner, from Houston, was reportedly arrested on February 17, a week before Russia invaded Ukraine.

The invasion has heightened tensions between the United States and Russia and, in an unstable diplomatic environment, concerns about Griner are growing, with some officials concerned that Griner and other Americans imprisoned in Russia could be used as leverage in the conflict. In progress.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday that the State Department has made a formal assessment that Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine. The United States also imposed a wave of new sanctions on Russia, including personal sanctions against Putin and some of his close aides. , but continued to oppose a no-fly zone and the deployment of American troops to fight Russia in Ukraine.

Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, whose district includes parts of Houston, called for the athlete’s release and told ABC’s “Nightline” in an interview last Thursday that the dispute between the United States and Russia over the invasion of Ukraine should not affect Griner’s chances of being freed.

“You know, there are international protocols that should be kept despite conflict,” the MP said.

“It’s a major conflict. It’s a major act of violence. It’s an invasion. Brittney Griner had nothing to do with it,” she added.

Price said Thursday that “time will tell” whether Griner’s visit with U.S. officials is a “one-time visit” or whether “Russia’s position is changing.”

“We want consistent and timely access to American detainees in Russia, including those on remand. That would require additional visits to Brittney Griner and other Americans detained in Russia,” he said.

Last week, Price expressed concern that Russia had not yet “allowed” US officials access to Griner.

“The Russians are obligated to allow, allow this kind of consular access under the Vienna Convention,” Price told ABC News Live at the time. “We will continue to insist that they allow us access to Brittney Griner just as we are allowed access to all Americans detained in Russia.”

Griner is a seven-time WNBA All-Star, having played for the Phoenix Mercury since 2013.

The Phoenix Mercury noted in a March 5 statement, the team is in contact with Griner’s family, his representatives and the WNBA and is closely following his case.

“We love and support Brittney and at this time our primary concern is her safety, physical and mental health, and her safe return home,” Phoenix Mercury said.

Conor Finnegan, Libby Cathey, Kandis Mascall, Matthew Fuhrman, Miles Cohen and ABC News’ Tanya Stukalova contributed to this report.

ABC News

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