On June 27, Ms. Griner appeared in court at a preliminary hearing, where her trial was set to begin at the end of the week, on July 1. Her lawyer, Aleksandr Boikov, said she would remain in custody until the trial ends, and that he expected the trial to take up to two months, depending on the court’s workload.
After a long delay following her arrest, United States officials were able to see her on March 23 and “found her to be in good condition,” according to Jennifer L. Palmer, a spokeswoman for the American Embassy in Moscow.
On May 3, the U.S. State Department described Ms. Griner as being “wrongfully detained,” a move that transfers responsibility for the case from the department’s consular affairs bureau to the office of the special envoy for hostage affairs.
The detention of Ms. Griner, 31, a seven-time W.N.B.A. All-Star center for the Phoenix Mercury and a key figure in two champion Olympic teams, came during an inflamed standoff between Russia and the United States over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and pulled the player into the middle of perhaps the most acute crisis between the two countries since the Cold War.
Here is what we know so far about Ms. Griner’s detention.
Russia is talking about potentially serious charges.
The Russian Federal Customs Service said that a sniffer dog had prompted it to search the carry-on luggage of an American basketball player at the airport near Moscow and that it had found vape cartridges containing hashish oil. A state-owned Russian news agency then identified the player as Ms. Griner.
Hashish oil is a marijuana concentrate that has a high concentration of the psychoactive chemical THC, and it is commonly sold in cartridges that are used in vape pens. The Russian Federal Customs Service said that customs officers had noticed vapes after scanning the traveler’s bag.
The customs service said that a criminal case had been opened into the large-scale transportation of drugs, a charge that could carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
It released a video of a traveler who appeared to be Ms. Griner going through airport security with a trolley suitcase and a small backpack, followed by footage of someone examining a package that appeared to be from the traveler’s suitcase.
“Brittney has always handled herself with the utmost professionalism during her long tenure with USA Basketball,” U.S.A. Basketball said on Twitter.
The timing of the detention remains murky. Its political implications do, too.
The Russian Federal Customs Service announced Ms. Griner’s detention on March 5 but said that she had been stopped at the Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow in February. Representative Colin Allred, Democrat of Texas, said in early March that Ms. Griner had been detained on Feb. 17 and that he was working with the State Department to get her back to the United States.
In March, a Russian court extended her detention until May 19.
On May 13, Ms. Griner appeared in court in Khimki, a town near Moscow, for a procedural hearing, according to Mr. Boikov, her lawyer. Hesaid then that the court had extended the pretrial detention, one of several extensions in the case.
On June 14, the Russian authorities extended Ms. Griner’s pretrial detention until July 2, according to the state news agency TASS.
The W.N.B.A. season started on May 6, and an image of Griner and her jersey number, 42, will be displayed on each team’s court throughout the season.
It is still unclear whether Russia might have targeted Ms. Griner as leverage against the United States, which has led a widespread effort to impose harsh sanctions on Russia and its elite.
On May 3, the State Department said that Ms. Griner had been wrongfully detained but did not explain why it had made that determination. By American law, the designation obliges the secretary of state to transfer responsibility for the case to the office of the special envoy for hostage affairs.
On March 6, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken did not respond to a question about whether Russia had announced her arrest as retaliation for the economic, military and diplomatic pressure the United States has leveled against Russia.
But American officials have repeatedly accused Moscow of detaining U.S. citizens on doubtful pretexts.
“This follows a pattern of Russia wrongly detaining & imprisoning US citizens,” Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, wrote on Twitter on March 5, citing the case of Trevor Reed, a former U.S. Marine whom a Russian court sentenced to nine years in prison in 2020 on charges of violence against police officers that his family and supporters described as fraudulent.
On the same day, the State Department released an updated advisory urging American citizens to leave Russia immediately given the “potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials.”
Ms. Griner was in Russia to play. Many W.N.B.A. stars rely on income from overseas leagues.
Ms. Griner has played for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg for several years during the W.N.B.A. off-season. Her agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, wrote in the Los Angeles Times in April that Ms. Griner had been connecting in Moscow on the way back to the United States when she was detained.
Many American players compete with high-paying Russian teams: About 70 W.N.B.A. players have decided to play with international teams instead of resting during the off-season this year, with more than a dozen in Russia and Ukraine.
A W.N.B.A. spokeswoman said on March 5 that all the others had already left Russia and Ukraine.
The financial incentives are compelling. W.N.B.A. players make a fraction of what their male counterparts do, with their maximum salary in 2022 at $228,094 while the top N.B.A. players are paid tens of millions of dollars.
International women’s teams, which tend to have more government and corporate financial support than those in the W.N.B.A., can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a season, and sometimes more than $1 million.
Ms. Colas has criticized the gender pay gap in American basketball in connection to Ms. Griner’s detention.
“While her detention has risen to the top of news for its geopolitical relevance,” Ms. Colas wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “at its underbelly lies a story of gender-pay disparity here in the United States.”
The public statements are cautious, but supporters are rallying around Ms. Griner.
Mr. Blinken said that the State Department would “provide every possible assistance” to any American held by a foreign government.
“Whenever an American is detained anywhere in the world, we of course stand ready to provide every possible assistance,” Mr. Blinken said. “And that includes in Russia.”
American officials were allowed to see Ms. Griner on March 23. Yekaterina Kalugina, a member of the public monitoring group that is allowed to visit prisons and check on inmate conditions, said that Ms. Griner had “a positive attitude,” had received from her lawyers shampoo and some books, and spent most of her days watching Russian television.
Ms. Griner has seen her Russian legal team multiple times a week while she has been in custody, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who asked not to be identified publicly because of the sensitivity of the matter, but the U.S. authorities said that Ms. Griner had initially been denied consular assistance.
Initially those close to Ms. Griner appeared to be trying to generate as little public noise as possible and have said little about her situation beyond expressing their support and hopes for her safe return home.
“What we’re trying to do now, of course, is be helpful and not do anything that’ll place Brittney in any kind of danger or make her situation worse,” said Mr. Allred, the Texas representative, who added that he was working with the State Department to secure her release.
But more recently, players from the W.N.B.A., Ms. Griner’s family and her agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, have conducted a public campaign to push for her release, printing her face on hoodies and her initials on fans’ jerseys and basketball courts.
On June 13, the U.S. State Department officials met with Brittney Griner’s team and Brianna Turner, a player from the Mercury, and said that officials were encouraging the team to continue talking publicly about Ms. Griner.
“They encouraged us to keep speaking her name, to keep holding them accountable to bring B.G. back home as soon as possible,” Turner said in a statement.
The W.N.B.A. said in a statement that Ms. Griner “has the W.N.B.A.’s full support and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States.”
The Mercury also released a statement saying that they “love and support Brittney” and that their main concern was her safety, her physical and mental health, and her safe return home.
Politicians and public figures have also shown support for Ms. Griner, including Hillary Clinton, who wrote on Twitter, “Free Brittney.”
“Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me regarding my wife’s safe return from Russia,” Ms. Griner’s wife, Cherelle T. Griner, posted on Instagram, adding, “We continue to work on getting my wife home safely.”
The release of an American raises hope.
The release of Trevor R. Reed, a former Marine, as part of a prisoner exchange with Russia on April 27 brought fresh attention to the cases of other Americans who are still detained in Russia, including Ms. Griner and Paul Whelan.
In a briefing to reporters on April 28, American officials said that the administration remained focused on the release of Ms. Griner and Mr. Whelan, but some observers noticed that in a statement after Mr. Reed’s release, President Biden had mentioned Mr. Whelan but not Ms. Griner.
Cherelle Griner posted on Instagram that her heart was “overflowing with joy for The Reed Family.”
“I do know the pain of having your loved one detained in a foreign country,” she added.
Ms. Colas, Ms. Griner’s agent, declined to comment on Mr. Reed’s release, but many people, especially in the sports world, seized on his newfound freedom to bring Ms. Griner’s case back into the spotlight.
“Praying for Britney Griner and her family!!!” Isaiah Thomas, a former N.B.A. all-star, wrote on Twitter. Torrey Smith, a former wide receiver who played in the N.F.L., reacted to the news with a call: “Can y’all free Brittany Griner?” he wrote on Twitter.
Representatives for Mr. Reed and Mr. Whelan have accused Russia of arresting them with the purpose of exchanging them for Russians detained in the United States. On Wednesday, experts said that the release of Mr. Reed was an encouraging sign that diplomatic efforts could still yield results despite the current level of hostility between Washington and Moscow.
“Maybe we can work and get Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner back,” Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told CNN.
The post What We Know About Brittney Griner’s Detention in Russia appeared first on New York Times.