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Russia reportedly detains WNBA’s Brittney Griner at airport near Moscow


Russian officials reportedly arrested American professional basketball player Brittney Griner for drug possession at Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow on Saturday.

She was arrested after the Russian Federal Customs Service (FCS) found vaping cartridges containing hash oil, the New York Times reported. She is currently in police custody while an investigation is still ongoing.

Russian customs did not identify the WNBA player as Griner in their statement, but said the arrested player had won two Olympic gold medals with the United States. However, Russian online newspaper Lenta.ru identified the player as Griner, citing an FCS source.

“In February 2022, when a US citizen who arrived on a flight from New York was passing through the “green” corridor of Sheremetyevo airport, a service dog from the Sheremetyevo customs canine department indicated the possible presence of drugs in escorted luggage,” the FCS said according to the Russian newspaper.

A criminal case against Griner has been launched under Article 229.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation which stipulates “trafficking” in drugs. Transporting drugs can result in a sentence of up to 10 years in prison in Russia.

Russia’s customs service released a video of a traveler who allegedly Griner going through security checks, wearing a mask and a black sweatshirt, according to the Times. A person seen in the video appeared to have taken a package out of their bag.

Griner who plays for the Phoenix Mercury won gold medals with the WNBA in the United States in 2016 and 2021.

She also played for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg for a few years. Some WNBA players are reportedly playing in Russia during American League offseasons for higher salaries, according to the Times. However, some players reportedly started leaving after the invasion of Ukraine began.

“The few WNBA players who were competing this offseason in Ukraine are no longer in the country,” the WNBA said Feb. 24, according to ESPN. “The league has also been in contact with WNBA players who are in Russia, either directly or through their agents. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Griner’s reported arrest comes amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” to “demilitarize and denazify” the Eastern European country. Shortly after his announcement, Ukrainian authorities reported missile strikes across the country, and Russian ground and air forces were seen moving into territories controlled by the Kyiv government.

Hundreds of casualties were reported after the first missile hit Ukraine, according to an Interior Ministry source, which saw thousands of Ukrainians flee the country to seek refuge in safer neighboring countries.

Newsweek has contacted the WNBA for comment and will update the story once a response is received.

WNBA player Brittney Griner has reportedly been arrested in Russia for possession of cannabis oil and an investigation into the incident is currently underway. Above, Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury moves against Stefanie Dolson #31 of the Chicago Sky in Game 3 of the 2021 WNBA Finals at Wintrust Arena on October 15, 2021 in Chicago.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images


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