American female basketball player detained in Russia over hashish oil
Russia’s Customs Service says it has detained Brittney Griner, one of America’s most decorated women’s basketball players, after it found hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow.
Though Ms Griner’s name was not released, a Russian news agency identified her as the Phoenix Mercury centre who won two Olympic gold medals with the U.S. women’s basketball team.
The statement said drug-sniffing dogs in the airport’s customs area indicated the possible presence of narcotic drugs in the player’s carry-on baggage following her arrival on a flight from New York.
A subsequent search of the luggage led to the discovery of the cartridges, a criminal violation under Russian law that carries a sentence of five to 10 years.
A video of Ms Griner going through security at the airport made it to social media. The New York Times suggests that Ms Griner may have been in detention for at least three weeks, as the video showing the screening at the airport happened in February.
In a statement, Ms Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said she was “aware of the situation with Brittney Griner in Russia and are in close contact with her, her legal representation in Russia, her family, her teams and the WNBA and NBA.”
The WNBA said in a release that Ms Griner has the league’s “full support” and “our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States”.
The news comes as the United State Department issued a “do not travel” advisory for Russia, urging all U.S. citizens to evacuate, following Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour Ukraine.
The advisory had mentioned factors such as “the potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials” and “the Embassy’s limited ability to assist” Americans in Russia.
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