Brittney Griner, an American basketball player currently serving a prison sentence in Russia, admitted during her trial in Moscow to using narcotics and smuggling (not intent to sell) but insisted she had no intention of breaking the law. According to Griner, who was quoted by the Russian news agencies, she acted carelessly because she was rushing to pack.
What Griner has said:
“I’d like to plead guilty, your honour. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” Griner said, speaking quietly in English which was then translated into Russian for the court.
“I was in a rush packing. And the cartridges accidentally ended up in my bag,” Griner said.
“I’d like to give my testimony later. I need time to prepare,” she added.
The change occurs as interest in Griner’s case has been growing. On February 17, Griner was held at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after it was claimed that vape canisters containing cannabis oil had been discovered in her luggage. Should could be found guilty of large-scale drug transportation, and she may spend up to 10 years in prison.
Relations between Russia and the United States have reached their lowest point since the Cold War as a result of Western sanctions placed on Russia due to its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
The trial for Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) All-Star, started last week amid rising cries for Washington to do more to gain her release nearly five months after her detention.
Before the hearing on Thursday, Russian police led Griner, who was shackled and wearing a bright red T-shirt and sports pants, through a group of reporters and into the courtroom. Alexander Boykov, Griner’s attorney, told reporters on Thursday that they were seeking for the least harsh punishment possible.
According to the White House, President Joe Biden called Griner’s wife on Wednesday to reassure her that he is doing all in his power to secure the athlete’s immediate release. After Biden read a letter from Griner in which she expressed her dread of never returning home, they engaged in conversation.
Due to the intense hostility caused by Russia’s military activities in Ukraine, Washington has not publicly disclosed its case strategy, and it is possible that it will have little influence over Moscow.
Griner has been declared to have been wrongfully detained by the US Department of State, which has transferred her case under the control of its special presidential envoy for hostage situations, who is essentially the government’s top hostage negotiator.
Stance in the US
After the hearing, deputy head of mission Elizabeth Rood of the US Embassy in Moscow informed reporters that she had spoken with Griner in the courtroom and shared a letter that she had read from Biden.
“She’s eating well; she’s able to read books and under the circumstances she’s doing well,” Rood said of Griner.
“We will not relent until Brittney, Paul Whelan and all other wrongfully detained Americans are reunited with their loved ones,” Former US Marine Whelan, who has been held in prison in Russia since 2018 on espionage allegations, was mentioned in a tweet by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.