Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov pushed back against suggestions that WNBA star Brittney Griner was being held hostage by Russian authorities, in an interview with NBC News on Monday, a statement that comes amid ongoing efforts to secure her release after Russian authorities extended her detention.
Peskov told NBC News Griner was detained for violating Russian law by allegedly carrying hashish in her luggage and she will be prosecuted for it.
The Kremlin spokesperson said hundreds of Russian citizens face penalties for breaking the country’s cannabis possession laws and no exception can be made for a foreign citizen.
Pushing back on Washington’s claims about Griner being “wrongfully detained,” Peskov said she cannot be called a “hostage,” adding that many Americans living in Russia are “enjoying their freedoms,” as long as they did not break any laws.
Peskov, however, refused to comment on why Griner wasn’t simply refused entry into Russia after landing in Moscow—where authorities claim they found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her possession.
Peskov also did not say if Griner will be released any time soon.
Griner was detained by Russian authorities as she landed in Moscow in February after vape cartridges containing hashish oil were allegedly found in her luggage. Like several other top WNBA stars, Griner had flown to Russia during the league’s off-season to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg in the more lucrative Russian Premier League. Despite Russia’s allegations, several observers believe Griner’s detention is an outcome of ongoing diplomatic tensions between Moscow and Washington. Over the past few months, top WNBA players, teams, and even LeBron James have called on the U.S. government to secure Griner’s release.
What To Watch For
Earlier this month, Russian authorities extended Griner’s pre-trial detention until July 2. This was the third time they had done so, after initially extending it to May 19 and then June 19. If Griner’s case goes to trial and she is convicted, the basketball star could face up to 10 years in prison. However, according to an earlier Forbes report, the Biden administration is negotiating a possible prisoner swap with Russia involving Griner and convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout.