Brittney Griner arrest: Photo of WNBA player aired on Russian state TV as anxiety and uncertainty grow

The arrest of two-time US Olympic basketball gold medalist Brittney Griner has left fans worried for her well-being and fears she could become a political pawn.

Russian authorities said Griner had cannabis oil in her luggage and charged her with smuggling large amounts of a narcotic substance, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Note: The video in the player above is from a previous related report.

It remains unclear exactly when Griner was arrested last month, or where she is currently being held.

READ MORE: WNBA player Britney Griner reportedly detained in Russia

But escalating tensions between the United States and Russia over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have fueled concerns that getting Griner out of Russia will be “very difficult”.

“She’s been there for a while”

Adaora Elonu, a former WBNA player who also played in Russia, said she was “extremely worried” about Griner.

“Right now, I’m just very, very worried — also knowing that she’s been there for a while,” Elonu told CNN on Tuesday.

She described feeling detached from much of the world while living in Russia. “Being in Russia, I was in a bit of a bubble,” Elonu said.

“I didn’t feel in danger. I felt like not much was happening in this country. I know there was a lot going on outside the country. But in terms of As far as when I was in Russia, we didn’t get much news of what was going on, besides my family and friends and my agent they kept me updated on what was going on. it was hard to find a balance between what was actually happening and what I was feeling,” she said.

“But once things started to get out of hand, my agent definitely pushed me out. And I’m glad I took his advice and got out.”

“There are no words to express this pain”

Griner’s whereabouts are not publicly known. CNN contacted the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment, but did not hear back.

A member of Russia’s Federal Customs Service described the accusation against Griner to Russia 24, the country’s main public news channel.

“A criminal case has been opened against a US citizen under Article 2 of 229 YK RF (Russian law) for smuggling a significant amount of drugs,” Irina Begisheva of the Main Directorate of fight against smuggling of the Federal Customs Service. 24.

In an Instagram post, Griner’s wife described the agony of waiting.

“People say ‘stay busy’. Yet there isn’t a task in this world that could stop any of us from worrying about you. Sweetheart, our hearts skip with the passing days. Cherelle Griner posted on Monday.

“There are no words to express this pain. I hurt, we hurt.”

Over the weekend, she thanked supporters and asked for privacy “as we continue to work to bring my wife home safely.”

But a member of the US House Armed Services Committee said “it will be very difficult” to get Griner out of Russia.

“Our diplomatic relations with Russia are non-existent at this time,” Democratic Rep. John Garamendi of California told CNN on Monday.

“Maybe during the various negotiations that could take place, she could be one of the solutions. I don’t know.”

He also noted that “Russia has very, very strict LGBT rules and laws” — although it’s unclear whether those rules and laws could impact Griner’s case. Russia passed LGBTQ-related legislation and banned the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations around minors”.

Griner’s high school basketball coach, Debbie Jackson, said she was concerned that Griner’s case could be used for political gain.

“My biggest fear is that she will become a political pawn,” Jackson told CNN.

But the Biden administration is working to get Griner out of Russia, members of the Congressional Black Caucus said after meeting with President Joe Biden on Monday.

“The best news we had today is that they know about it and she’s on the agenda,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents the hometown of Jackson, told reporters. Griner, Houston.

Noting a potential 10-year sentence for Griner, Jackson Lee added, “We know Brittney Griner, and we know we have to change her situation.”

A career full of stories

Griner spent his entire WNBA career with the Phoenix Mercury and won the league championship in 2014. The WNBA has confirmed that all other players in the league have left Russia and Ukraine.

Like many other WNBA players, Griner plays overseas during the offseason where salaries can be much higher than what professional female basketball players are paid in the United States.

She won the EuroLeague Women’s Championship last year with Russian club UMMC Ekaterinburg, where she has been playing since 2015 during her off-season.

Fans around the world have called for Griner’s release, with more than 34,000 people signing the “Secure Brittney Griner’s Swift and Safe Return to the US” petition on on Tuesday.

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