Why Brittney Griner could have a challenging path out of Russia

By Vaughan Jones
Published: Sunday, March 6, 2022 - 6:50pm
Updated: Wednesday, March 9, 2022 - 11:25am

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Phoenix Mercury players Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi
Harrison Zhang/Cronkite News
Brittney Griner (left) and Diana Taurasi.

Despite the actual arrest happening in February, Russian customs waited until Saturday to announce that WNBA star Brittney Griner had been detained after she was found with vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.

Jacob Lassin is with the Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian and Eastern European studies at Arizona State University. 

He says it is normally difficult to bring Americans home from Russian detainment, but even more difficult in the current circumstances.

“Right now, Russia has sent out of the country, they’ve dismissed, basically, our ambassador, and so, and a lot of the embassy staff are not there in Moscow right now,” said Lassin.

According to the statement, a criminal case has been opened into the large-scale transportation of drugs, which can carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison in Russia.

Lassin says these inflated charges are not unheard of in Russia, especially for high-profile cases like Griner.

He added that Griner’s being a Black woman and a member of the LGBTQ+ community could make her stay in Russia even more difficult. 

“I think it definitely will play a factor going forward, in the way that she’s perceived both in Russia, and the ways that the legal system might treat her,” said Lassin.

Lassin says Russia’s prison system has seen a lot of disease, including COVID-19, due to a lack of health care provided to inmates.

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