U.S. State Department officials have called out Russia for its “unacceptable” denial of embassy visits to detained basketball star Brittney Griner.
Griner, 31, has been held in custody since February after allegedly attempting to enter the country with vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow posted to social media that consular officials have been prevented from meeting with Griner on three separate occasions in the last month, actions they describe as a violation of international law.
“You may have seen Ambassador [John] Sullivan issued a statement earlier today,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a press briefing Tuesday. “He made the point that it is unacceptable that for the third time in a month, Russian authorities have denied an embassy visit to Brittney Griner.”
Price noted a consular official spoke with Griner Friday “on the margins of her court proceedings” and that the basketball star was “doing as well as might be expected under conditions that can only be described as exceedingly difficult,” but went on to say “sporadic contact is not satisfactory.”
He confirmed that U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken had spoken recently with the detained player’s wife, Cherelle Griner, and assured her “once again the priority we attach to seeing the release of all Americans around the world,” including Griner.
Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department called her detention unlawful and called for her release. Her detention in the country was recently extended an additional month, leading many to suspect her case may soon go to trial.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently said the league has been working behind the scenes to secure her release.
“We’ve been in touch with the White House, the State Department, hostage negotiators, every level of government and also through the private sector as well,” Silver told ESPN. “Our number one priority is her health and safety and making sure that she gets out of Russia.”