Russian diplomat knocks Biden administration ‘hype’ around Griner case

AP-Alexander Zemlianichenko
WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, Friday, July 1, 2022. U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner is set to go on trial in a Moscow-area court Friday. The proceedings that are scheduled to begin Friday come about 4 1/2 months after she was arrested on cannabis possession charges at an airport while traveling to play for a Russian team. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

A top Russian diplomat on Thursday criticized the “hype” surrounding the high-profile detainment of WNBA star Brittney Griner.  

The remarks to reporters before Griner’s court appearance on Thursday by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov follow news of a conversation between President Biden, Vice President Harris and Cherelle Griner, Brittany Griner’s wife, on Wednesday.

“The American side’s attempts to foment hype and make noise in the public environment are understandable, but they don’t help to practically resolve issues,” Ryabkov told reporters at the courthouse, according to an account by The Washington Post

Biden is facing intense pressure to get Griner home. But the administration has also appeared wary of getting into a prisoner exchange negotiation with the Kremlin for fear it would lead to more unjust prosecutions of Americans abroad.

Griner was arrested in Moscow on drug charges just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She’s accused of having vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage and faces a possible 10-year sentence in Russia. Griner pled guilty to the charges on Wednesday.

Ryabkov also said Moscow is willing to cooperate with U.S. officials once Griner’s trial is complete, adding that “we have a long-established form for discussing these matters,” The Washington Post reported. 

“Clearly the necessary judicial procedures have not been completed. Until then, there is no nominal, formal, procedural basis for any further steps at all,” Ryabkov told reporters. 

Griner, who was named an honorary All-Star for the 2022 WNBA All-Star Game, recently penned a letter to Biden over the Fourth of July holiday weekend urging him and other top officials to do anything they can to bring her home.

“As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever,” the 31-year-old basketball star wrote in her letter to Biden

Vanessa Nygaard, the head coach of Griner’s WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, made remarks on Monday asking if Los Angeles Lakers star forward LeBron James would be detained this long if he were in Griner’s position.

Tags Biden Brittney Griner Brittney Griner Brittney Griner detention Moscow Pheonix Mercury Russia Sergei Ryabkov The Biden Administration WNBA

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