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WNBA star Brittney Griner will remain in Russian custody until at least July 2, Russia’s state news agency Tass reported on Tuesday.
The 31-year-old American basketball player has been detained in Russia on drug charges since February. Last month, the US State Department reclassified her as wrongfully detained.
The Moscow region’s Khimki district court extended Griner’s detention for a third time, according to the Tass report, which also quoted a senior Russian diplomat as saying Moscow will not consider including Griner in a detainee swap “until a court investigate your case. it’s complete.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, according to Tass, was responding to US media reports that the Biden administration had offered to trade convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner. Ryabkov did not give a timetable for the proceedings in the player’s case.
Griner’s followers continue plead for his releaseand some expressed concern that Moscow could use it as a bargaining chip amid war tensions in Ukraine.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who plays in Russia during the WNBA offseason, was detained at a Moscow airport after authorities claimed she was carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. She is charged with “smuggling significant quantities of a narcotic substance,” a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison in Russia.
The Houston native plays for the Phoenix Mercury.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Tuesday that it was his understanding that department officials learned of the extension of his detention only through Tass, which he said was problematic.
“This case is problematic from top to bottom,” he said. “That is precisely why we have characterized Brittney Griner as an illegal detainee. That is precisely why we are doing everything we can to seek and affect the prompt release of her from Russian detention.”