A top Kremlin official has denied that WNBA star Brittney Griner is a hostage of the Russian Federation government.
Upon arriving in Moscow’s airport in February, Griner was detained for allegedly having vape cartridges containing hash oil in her bag.
In May, Vladimir Putin’s regime reportedly issued a statement claiming that “She was caught red-handed while trying to smuggle hash oil. In Russia, this is a crime.”
During an interview conducted by NBC News correspondent Keir Simmons, the journalist suggested that Griner, 31, who was planning to play for a Russian pro league during the WNBA off-season, was in the country “to build bridges through sport,” and as such, her arrest sends a terrible message.
Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov responded that “it is also a terrible message to bring some forbidden essences and materials to this country while trying to build some bridges. And it is prosecuted by Russian laws. And Russia is not a single country in the world that [has]…strict laws in that sense. There’s a number of countries where you cannot enter with any drugs…”
When Simmons claimed that the U.S. State Department considers this a hostage situation, Peskov replied that “I would strongly disagree with that. We cannot call her a hostage…She violated Russian law. And now she’s being prosecuted. It’s not about being a hostage.”
U.S. authorities previously concluded that Griner was wrongly detained.
Watch (the Griner discussion begins at about the seven-minute mark):
“Griner, he said, was no different from ‘hundreds and hundreds of Russian citizens that were sentenced for carrying hashish. Why should we make an exemption for a foreign citizen?,’” NBC News quoted Peskov as asserting.
He reportedly added that “There are lots of American citizens here. They’re enjoying their freedoms…but you have to obey the laws.”
According to Fox News, “Griner has been rumored to be potentially involved in a detainee swap involving Viktor Bout, who is in the middle of a 25-year sentence in federal prison after he was convicted of conspiracy to kill Americans relating to the support of a Colombian terrorist organization.
The news outlet also recalled that “A Moscow court extended Griner’s detention until July 2. It was the third time her detention has been extended, Russian state-run media TASS reported. She’s been held ever since with limited public appearances.”
Peskov separately described two American military veterans captured by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine as “soldiers of fortune” who were involved in “illegal activities” and who could be held responsible for “their crimes,” pending an investigation.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who plays for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, is no fan of The Star-Spangled Banner. Her extraordinary athletic resume also includes an NCAA championship while starring at Baylor University as well as a title win with the Mercury.
Russia’s detention of WNBA star sparks fears Putin may use anthem-opposing player as bargaining chip https://t.co/fOn6gDlbFS
— Jack Furnari (@JackBPR) March 6, 2022
If convicted in a Russian court on alleged drug-smuggling charges, Griner could reportedly face up to 10 years behind bars.
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