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Russian court extends detention for WNBA star Brittney Griner

A court in Russia has extended the pre-trial detention for WNBA star Brittney Griner.

Griner, who was detained in February, will remain in custody at least through July 2, according to the Russian state media outlet TASS.

The 31-year-old was taken into custody at Sheremetyevo International Airport, near Moscow, on Feb. 17 after officials allegedly found vape cartridges with hashish oil in her bag. Hasish oil is illegal to possess in Russia.

Her detention was extended for another 18 days at “the request of the investigation,” according to a representative from the Khimki Court of the Moscow Region, per TASS.

Griner has been detained in a Russian prison for 117 days, more than three months. She was visiting Russia in February to play basketball for the Russian Premier League team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the offseason when she was arrested at Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow for allegedly having vape cartridges in her luggage that contained hashish oil — an illegal substance in Russia.

She was charged with “large-scale transportation of drugs” and could face up to 10 years in prison, according to The New York Times.

The US government classified Griner’s case on May 3 as “wrongfully detained” in Russia, which means that the US would work to negotiate her release.

“Our position for some time on this has been very clear. Brittney Griner should not be detained. She should not be detained for a single day longer,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Tuesday.

Price said that based on his understanding, no American diplomats were able to gain access to Griner amid news of the extension. He added that the State Department continues to work to gain regular access to US detainees in Russia, including Griner and Paul Whelan, who has been in a Russian prison since 2018.

Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, told “GMA” co-anchor Robin Roberts last month that the support her wife has received from the league has brought the WNBA star “comfort” amid her detention.

The WNBA, which kicked off its 2022 season on May 6, is honoring Griner with a floor decal bearing her initials and jersey number (No. 42) on the sideline of all 12 WNBA courts.

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner leaves a courtroom after a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, May 13, 2022.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP, FILE

“Things like that matter, like, it has her hopeful,” Cherelle Griner told Roberts. “It lets her know she’s not forgotten.”

“Those small moments, I know, give her some kind of hope,” she added.

The 6-foot-9 center won an NCAA title at Baylor in 2012; a WNBA title with Phoenix, her current team, in 2014; and gold medals with the US women’s team at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began one week after Griner was detained on Feb. 17. Some officials are concerned that Americans jailed in Russia could be used as leverage in the ongoing conflict.

Cherelle Griner said that she would like to speak with President Joe Biden.

“I just keep hearing that, you know, he has the power. She’s a political pawn,” she said. “So if they’re holding her because they want you to do something, then I want you to do it.”

PHOTO: Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix.

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner during the first half of Game 2 of basketball’s WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix.

Rick Scuteri/AP, FILE

Price said last month that a US consular officer was able to meet with Griner on May 19.

Price said the officer “found her continuing to do as well as could be expected under these exceedingly challenging circumstances.”

“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 details,” he added. “One-off visits are not sufficient, and we will continue to call on Moscow to uphold its commitments under the Vienna Convention for consistent and timely access, as well.”

The Phoenix Mercury said Monday the team and coaching staff had met with State Department officials and Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and Greg Stanton, D-Ariz., while they were in Washington, DC

“We’re here to do whatever we can to amplify and keep BG at the forefront, which is more important than any basketball game and anything else that’s going on in our lives,” Mercury star and longtime teammate Diana Taurasi said in a statement following the meetings. “We want BG to come home as soon as possible, it’s number one on our list.”

Cherelle Griner said she hadn’t spoken to Brittney since just after her arrest since her cellphone was confiscated, but she has corresponded in a few letters.

“Every single day matters for me to be sound, for me to be alert, for me to be attentive, to make sure that she comes back,” she told “Good Morning America” ​​in late May.

ABC News’ Shannon Crawford, Natalia Shumskaia and Tanya Stukalova contributed to this report.

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