Jun 21, 2022 - Sports

WNBA star Brittney Griner isn't a Russian hostage, Putin spokesman says

Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury looks on during the game.

WNBA star Brittney Griner during a Phoenix Mercury game. Photo: Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top spokesman denied accusations that WNBA star Brittney Griner is a hostage and gave no update about a potential release from Russian authorities, NBC News reports.

Why it matters: Griner was detained in February after landing in Moscow. Authorities said she had vape cartridges containing hashish oil, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison in Russia. The State Department says Griner was "wrongfully detained."

The latest: Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, told NBC News that he didn't see Griner as a Russian hostage and that she is no different from the “hundreds and hundreds of Russian citizens that were sentenced for carrying hashish.”

  • "She violated Russian law, and now she's being prosecuted," Peskov told NBC News. "It's not about being a hostage. There are lots of American citizens here. They're enjoying their freedoms … but you have to obey the laws."
  • “Why should we make an exemption for a foreign citizen?” he added.

Zoom out: Peskov's comments come days after Griner could not speak with her wife on the couple's fourth wedding anniversary.

  • Griner tried to call her wife about a dozen times over the weekend, but there was nobody at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to connect the couple, Axios' Erin Doherty writes.
  • The two haven't talked since Griner was arrested in February, Cherelle Griner told the Associated Press this week. She said she was "very pissed" over the canceled phone call.

What they're saying: A State Department spokesperson said, "We deeply regret that Brittney Griner was unable to speak with her wife because of a logistical error."

  • "We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas," the State Department spokesperson said, AP reports.

Go deeper... Russian court again extends Brittney Griner's detention

Go deeper