Britney Griner: What You Need to Know About Her Detention In Russia

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Britner Griner is among the most popular Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) players. She’s a seven-time WNBA All-Star champion and has won four gold medals at the Olympics

In February 2023, Britney Griner was arrested and detained in Russia. Her case sparked a lot of outcry over the mistreatment of American citizens in Russia. Why was Britney Griner in Russia, and what led to her arrest?

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Played Basketball in Russia

Like many WNBA players, Britney plays in Europe during the off-season to make more money. European basketball leagues are more lucrative. She played in the Russian League for UMMC Ekaterinburg

In February 2022, Griner travelled to Russia to join her team. However, she didn’t make it past the Moscow Sheremetyevo International Airport. 

The customs check found vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her bag. She was put into custody and had little access to the outside world.  

The Russian authorities charged her with smuggling narcotics.

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Griner’s Detention Extended

The basketballer’s detention in a Russian prison was extended three times before the start of her trial. Russian authorities stated that they needed more time for the investigation. 

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Calls for Britney Griner’s Release

Britney Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, requested the United States government to assist in releasing the basketballer. Britney also sent a message to President Joe Biden asking him to help her out. 

Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris assured to help. “It’s unacceptable and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates,” Biden wrote in a statement.

“My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible,” the president added.

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Britney Griner Pleads Guilty

When Britney Griner appeared in a court in Moscow, she admitted to carrying the vape cartridges but argued that she mistakenly packed them as she was in a hurry. 

“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,”

She further explained that as a role model, she wanted to admit to her mistakes. The court found her guilty of smuggling drugs and sentenced her to nine years. She was fined 1 million rubles ($16,301).

In Russia, drug trafficking charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years. Although the quantity of drugs she was carrying wasn’t made public, Russian authorities stated that it was a significant amount. 

Her lawyers appealed the decision as they said it was unreasonable but lost.

Britney Griner’s Release

The American government engaged in a prison swap deal that saw them hand over Viktor Bout to Russia for Griner’s release. Here’s what the basketballer said after her release.

“It feels so good to be home! The last 10 months have been a battle at every turn. I dug deep to keep my faith and it was the love from so many of you that helped keep me going. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your help.”

Britney Griner vowed to never play basketball overseas again after her experience in Russia. Do you think she made the right decision? If you’d like to understand international relations, Amazon has some amazing books.

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