WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration has determined that WNBA star Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained in Russia, meaning the United States will work more aggressively to secure her release even as the court case continues. against it is unfolding, two U.S. officials said on Tuesday.
Griner was arrested at an airport in February after Russian authorities said a search of her bag revealed vape cartridges containing traces of cannabis oil. Since then, US officials had not classified the Phoenix Mercury player as wrongfully detained and instead said their goal was to ensure she had access in prison to US consular affairs officials.
Now, however, US officials have transferred oversight of his case to a State Department office tasked with negotiating the release of hostages and other Americans deemed wrongfully detained.
It’s unclear what prompted the change, though President Joe Biden’s administration has been under pressure from members of Congress and others to make Griner’s release a priority. Last week, the United States secured the release of Navy veteran Trevor Reed in a prisoner exchange that also freed a convicted Russian drug trafficker from prison in the United States.
ESPN first reported the classification in Griner’s case. Two US officials confirmed this on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak by name.