Updated Mar 18, 2022 - Sports

U.S. officials say Russian authorities won't let them see Brittney Griner

 Brittney Griner #15 of Team USA o during the USA V Australia quarter final match in the basketball competition for women at the Saitama Super Arena during the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.
Team USA's Brittney Griner at the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games last August 4 in Japan. Photo: Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

U.S. officials have not seen American basketball star Brittney Griner since she was arrested in Moscow last month on drug charges because Russian authorities have repeatedly denied their requests, a State Department spokesperson told Axios Thursday night.

Driving the news: "We have repeatedly asked for consular access to these detainees and have consistently been denied access," the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

  • "Russia must abide by its legal obligations and allow us to provide consular services for U.S. citizens detained in Russia," the spokesperson added.

The big picture: The spokesperson said U.S. officials were "closely engaged on this case and in frequent contact with" the legal team of the WNBA player, who's had her detention extended until May 19, according to the state-run Tass news agency.

  • Griner, a double Olympic gold medalist, was detained as relations between Russia and the U.S. deteriorated, on Feb. 17 after Russian Federal Customs Service accused her of having vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow.
  • That same day, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned in a speech before the United Nations Security Council that the U.S. believed Russia's military would invade Ukraine within days. One week later, the invasion began.

What they're saying: "We insist the Russian government provide consular access to all U.S. citizen detainees in Russia, including those in pre-trial detention, as Brittney Griner is," the spokesperson said.

  • "We insist the Russian government provide consular access to all U.S. citizen detainees in Russia, including those in pre-trial detention, as Brittney Griner is," they added.
  • "We take our responsibility to assist U.S. citizens seriously, and we will continue to press for fair and transparent treatment for all U.S. citizens when they are subject to legal processes overseas."
  • ESPN reported earlier Thursday that U.S. officials still hadn't seen the seven-time All Star for the Phoenix Mercury. A source close to Griner told the outlet: "I wouldn't say she's 'good,' but she's OK."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details on Griner's detention and further context.

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