Brittney Griner appears in Russian court after US makes swap offer
KHIMKI, Russia – US basketball star Brittney Griner returned to stand trial at a Russian court on Tuesday as the United States sought to secure her release with a prisoner swap to help her avoid up to 10 years in jail on drugs charges.
Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star, was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on Feb. 17 with vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday the United States has made a “substantial offer” to Russia to release American citizens held in Russia, including Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan.
A source said that Washington was willing to exchange convicted arms trafficker Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death.”
Russia said that there was no deal yet, and Griner is unlikely to be swapped until there is a verdict, which could happen by mid-August.
Griner, 31, has pleaded guilty to the charges against her but has denied that she intended to break Russian law.
Wearing a plain khaki T-shirt and round-rimmed glassed, Griner was ushered a courtroom by police at Khimki District Court outside Moscow, Griner held up personal photographs before taking a seat in the defendant’s cage.
The two-time Olympic champion testified last week that she could not understand how the vape cartridges had ended up in her luggage, speculating that she had inadvertently packed them as she rushed to leave.
Griner had been her way to join her Russian team, UMMC Ekaterinburg, for the playoffs after spending time at home in the United States.