U.S. determines Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained in Russia
The United States government now regards Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner as being wrongfully detained by the Russian government, a State Department official told ESPN's T.J. Quinn.
"The Department of State has determined that the Russian Federation has wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Brittney Griner," the official told Quinn. "With this determination, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens will lead the interagency team for securing Brittney Griner's release."
The U.S. will now negotiate Griner's return instead of waiting for her case to be processed through Russian courts.
"Brittney has been detained for 75 days and our expectation is that the White House (will) do whatever is necessary to bring her home," Griner's agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, told ESPN.
The seven-time WNBA All-Star has not been formally charged and is awaiting a hearing later in May.
Griner was arrested in February upon her arrival at a Moscow-area airport, with Russian prosecutors claiming she illegally carried vape cartridges containing hashish oil into the country.
The WNBA released a statement Tuesday in support of Griner, announcing her initials and jersey number will appear on the sidelines of all 12 courts.
"We are keeping Brittney at the forefront of what we do through the game of basketball and in the community," said WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert. "We continue to work on bringing Brittney home and are appreciative of the support the community has shown BG and her family during this extraordinarily challenging time."
The Mercury will be allowed to sign a replacement player until Griner returns home and is ready to play. The 31-year-old will also be paid her full salary.
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