MOSCOW — WNBA star Brittney Griner will remain in Russian custody until at least July 2, Russian news agency Tass reported on Tuesday.
The 31-year-old American basketball player has been detained in Russia since February, when she was detained at a Moscow airport after authorities claimed she was carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. Last month, the US State Department reclassified her as wrongfully detained.
Moscow Region’s Khimki District Court extended Griner’s detention for the third time, according to the Tass report, which also quoted a senior Russian diplomat as saying that Moscow would not consider including Griner in a money swap. detained “until a judicial investigation into his case is completed.”
According to Tass, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was responding to US media reports that the Biden administration had offered to trade convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner. Ryabkov gave no timeline for the proceedings in the player’s case.
Griner’s supporters continue to plead for his release, with some fearing Moscow is using him as bargaining chip amid tensions over the war in Ukraine.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who plays in Russia during the WNBA’s offseason, was charged with “trafficking in large amounts of narcotics,” an offense that carries up to 10 years in prison in Russia.
The Houston native plays for the Phoenix Mercury.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Tuesday that he understands department officials only learned of the extension of his detention through Tass, which he said , was problematic.
“This case is problematic from top to bottom,” he said. “This is precisely why we have called Brittney Griner an unlawful detainee. This is precisely why we are doing everything we can to demand and secure her speedy release from detention in Russia.”