Kaine says he thinks Russia wants to use Brittney Griner ‘as a negotiating chip’

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is seen during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on Jan. 11, 2022.
Greg Nash

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said that he believes Russia will want to use WNBA star Brittney Griner as a “negotiating chip” amid her extended detention in the country and the ongoing war in Ukraine. 

The Virginia lawmaker told Greta Van Susteren during a segment on “Full Court Press” set to air on Sunday that he thought Griner’s detainment in Russia made her a piece in a chess game. 

“And I think there’s no doubt that her detention, and then this continuation of the imprisonment, is all to try to make her a hostage and a part of this chess game,” Kaine said.

“And so, I think Vladimir Putin and the Russians want to use her as a negotiating chip and what a horrific thing to do to someone.” 

Giner, a two-time Olympic champion, was detained at a Russian airport near Moscow on Feb. 17, according to Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas).

The New York Times first reported earlier this month that Griner had been taken into Russian custody after a canine unit allegedly found cannabis oil in her luggage. Following the discovery, an investigation was opened into allegations of large-scale transportation of drugs, a charge that carries a possible 10-year sentence. 

On Thursday, Russian state media outlet TASS reported that a court had extended the period of Griner’s detention until May 19. 

The U.S. and western allies have levied harsh economic sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. has sanctioned several Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin himself, as well as Russian banks and has banned the import of Russian oil. 

These measures, the Biden administration maintains, have already had a serious effect on the Russian economy. President Biden and other administration officials have said that the ruble is now worth less than one American penny. 

Amid these actions, concern about the Phoenix Mercury player’s freedom has mounted, with several lawmakers, including Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), believing that a high profile player like Griner could be used as a political pawn. 

“I don’t underestimate anything that Russia would do. With that in mind, I’ve got to keep fighting on all aspects of the front to ensure her safety,” Jackson Lee told The Hill last week.

Tags Brittney Griner Brittney Griner detention Colin Allred Joe Biden Russian invasion of Ukraine Sheila Jackson Lee Tim Kaine US. sanctions on Russia Vladimir Putin

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