US State Department calls for 'regular access' to American detainees in Russia

WNBA player Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia for three months

Brittney Griner, a WNBA player who was detained in Moscow on drug charges, received a visit from a US consular officer on Thursday. Reuters
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The US State Department called on Russia on Friday to grant regular access to detained American basketball star Brittney Griner and other prisoners.

Griner, a WNBA player who was detained in Moscow on drug charges only a few days before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February, received a visit from a US consular officer on Thursday.

“The consular officer found her continuing to do as well as could be expected under these exceedingly challenging circumstances,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

“But again, our message is a clear and simple one: we continue to insist that Russia allow consistent and timely consular access to all US citizen detainees. One-off visits are not sufficient.”

Last week, a Russian court extended Griner's pretrial detention until at least June.

The two-time Olympic gold medallist was detained at the Moscow airport after police reportedly found cannabis oil in her luggage. She was charged with attempting to smuggle a narcotic substance and, if convicted, could spend up to 10 years in prison.

Griner had been playing for a Moscow basketball team since 2014.

Earlier this month, the State Department confirmed to The National Griner had been reclassified as being “wrongfully detained” — a designation that suggests the US will be more aggressive in attempting to secure her release.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, last Saturday, CNN reported. He said the case is a top priority and that his department will spare no effort to ensure her release.

In a statement obtained by CNN, Griner's family said they are “grateful for the time Secretary Blinken took on his recent call with Cherelle and look forward to her face-to-face meeting with the president”.

The US has previously been denied access to Ms Griner, with John Sullivan, the US ambassador to Russia, saying Moscow had refused the embassy permission to visit three times.

“This is unacceptable. We call on @mfa_russia to provide timely consular access, in line with Russia's international and bilateral obligations,” Mr Sullivan tweeted.

Reuters contributed to this report

Updated: May 20, 2022, 7:36 PM