Antony Blinken Speaks To Brittney Griner’s Wife As WNBA Player Remains Detained In Russia

The secretary of state told Cherelle Griner that her wife's release is a top priority. Russia has extended the basketball star's pretrial detention.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Cherelle Griner on Saturday as her wife, WNBA player Brittney Griner, remains detained in Russia.

The State Department has made the basketball star’s release its top priority, Blinken told Cherelle Griner, assuring her that the department is working on the case nonstop and that she should reach out if she’s not receiving the information she needs.

CNN and NBC News first reported on the conversation, which a senior State Department official confirmed to HuffPost.

On Tuesday, Cherelle Griner posted a black-and-white video on Instagram from one of her wife’s games, with a caption saying, “Game Day!” The video shows Brittney Griner jogging off the basketball court to give her wife a kiss.

Blinken’s conversation with Cherelle Griner came just a day after a Russian court ruled to extend Brittney Griner’s pretrial detention until at least June. A consular officer from the State Department was able to speak to the WNBA player on the sidelines of her Friday hearing, according to department spokesperson Ned Price.

On Monday, however, U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said that the country had denied the U.S. Embassy permission to visit Brittney Griner for the third time in a month.

“This is unacceptable. We call on @mfa_russia to provide timely consular access, in line with Russia’s intl & bilateral obligations,” Sullivan said in a tweet posted by the embassy.

Russian authorities arrested the basketball player in February on drug smuggling charges after she was allegedly found carrying cannabis-derived vape cartridges in her luggage in Moscow. The two-time Olympic gold medalist has played for a Russian basketball team for years during the WNBA off-season.

Price said last week that Griner is “doing as well as can be expected under what can only be described as exceedingly difficult circumstances,” and said the State Department is “working very closely” on her case in addition to fellow detained American Paul Whelan. Trevor Reed, an American who was also detained in Russia, was released last month in a prisoner swap.

“Our message across the board for Americans who are detained in Russia is that we expect, consistent with the Vienna Convention, to have regular and consistent access to Americans who are detained, including those Americans who are in pretrial detention,” Price said.

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