Jul 1, 2022 - World

WNBA star Brittney Griner's trial begins in Russia

WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 1, 2022.

Brittney Griner arrives at the Khimki City Court, outside Moscow, on July 1. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

WNBA star Brittney Griner went on trial on Friday in Russia facing drug charges that carry up to 10 years in prison, Reuters reports.

Driving the news: Russian prosecutors outlined the charges against Griner, who was detained in Moscow in February. She is accused of intentionally importing drugs into Russia, according to the Russian state news agency TASS.

  • Prosecutors alleged that Griner "put the prohibited substances into a backpack and a suitcase," with the goal of transporting the contraband into Russia, per TASS, the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • Griner told the court that she understood the charges, but it is not yet clear how she intends to respond to them.
  • "The accusation is clear. Now I don’t want to express my opinion/attitude about the charge. Later," TASS cited Griner as saying.

Catch up quick: Russian authorities accused Griner of possessing vape cartridges with hashish oil. U.S. officials say she was "wrongfully detained."

What they're saying: "She is a bit worried because she has the trial and the sentencing in the close future. But she is a tough lady. I think that she will manage," lawyer Alexander Boykov said after the hearing, per Reuters.

  • "She asked me to convey that she is in good spirits and is keeping up the faith," said Elizabeth Rood, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Russia.

Her wife Cherelle Griner said in an interview with CNN Friday that it was "very disheartening" to see the photos of Brittney Griner released this week.

  • She has to "travel five hours round trip in a tiny cage with her knees bent," Cherelle Griner said.
  • "I don't think the maximum amount of effort is being done [to free her] because, again, the rhetoric and the actions don't match," she added.
  • "You have a situation where BG can call our government, the embassy, 11 times and that phone call don't get answered," she said. "You don't have my trust at that point ... It would be in her best interest to be back on U.S. soil."

The other side: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied that Griner's detention is politically motivated.

  • "I can only operate with known facts, and the facts indicate that the eminent athlete was detained with illegal drugs that contained narcotic substances," Peskov said.
  • "There are articles in Russian legislation that provide for punishment for such crimes," he told reporters. "Only the court can pass a verdict."

What to watch: Griner's next hearing is scheduled for July 7, per Reuters.

Go deeper: WNBA star Brittney Griner is "struggling" in Russia, wife says

Go deeper