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Russian court extends detention by 18 days for WNBA star Brittney Griner

A Russian court on Tuesday extended pre-trial detention for American basketball star Brittney Griner, who was detained in February and so far has spent more than three months in prison on drug charges. Griner, 31, had been detained in Russia  after an airport stop for allegedly carrying vape cartridges with hashish oil in her luggage. Griner’s pre-trial detention was previously extended to May 19, and then for another 30 days before Tuesday’s addition. Now, Griner will remain in custody at least through July 2, according to Russia’s state-run TASS news agency Tuesday. The agency said that the court’s 18-day extension for Griner came at “the request of the investigation.”

Griner 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, which is illegal to possess in Russia. She was charged with “large-scale transportation of drugs” and could face up to 10 years in prison.

The arrest came about a week before Russia invaded Ukraine, and some U.S. officials are concerned that Americans jailed in Russia could be used as leverage. Last month, the U.S. government changed Griner’s status to “wrongfully detained,” which means that the United States will take more proactive measures to free Griner and will no longer wait for the Russian justice system to resolve the issue.

Griner was visiting Russia to play basketball for the Russian Premier League team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the offseason.  Women basketball players often compete for teams overseas during their U.S. offseason to earn more income. The 6-foot-9 center won an NCAA title at Baylor in 2012; a WNBA title with the Phoenix Mercury, her current team, in 2014; and gold medals with the U.S. women’s team at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics. When the WNBA kicked off this year’s season on May 6, it honored Griner with a floor decal bearing her initials and jersey number (No. 42) on the sideline of all 12 WNBA courts.

Editorial credit: Keeton Gale /

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