Kremlin reiterates stance as US basketball star’s drug trial begins – Reuters

Brittney Griner is on trial in Russia after being arrested for drug trafficking in February

The arrest of American basketball player Brittney Griner for drug trafficking had no political motivation and the Kremlin would be wrong to comment on the legal proceedings, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at the start of the star’s trial.

Griner was filmed arriving at Khimki District Court just outside Moscow on Friday as she faces up to 10 years in prison after being found with banned hashish vaping cartridges at Sheremetyevo airport in mid-February.

Griner, 31, was arriving in Russia to play for UMMC Yekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason in her native country – something she had been doing since 2014.

Given Griner’s status as an icon of women’s basketball – where she is a two-time Olympic champion and eight-time WNBA All-Star – the case has drawn considerable attention, with accusations from the United States that the Russia uses him as a political pawn.

Those claims were again refuted by Peskov when asked about Griner on Friday.

« I cannot comment on the actions of the Russian court, I have no right to do so », Peskov said, quoted by RIA.

« We never do that. I can only operate with facts. The facts say that this eminent athlete was detained with illicit drugs containing narcotic substances.

“Russian legislation has such (laws) that provide penalties for such crimes, but, again, this is just a statement.

« That’s what she was detained for and what is in our legislation, » said President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman.

Peskov added that Griner’s arrest « can’t be politically motivated, based on what I just said. »

The comments reiterate what Peskov told US media in an interview earlier this month, in which he dismissed the idea that Griner was somehow being used as bargaining chip in a potential prisoner swap later.

On that occasion, Peskov told NBC that Griner shouldn’t be given special status just because she’s a foreigner, and said she should be subject to Russian law like anyone else.

US vows to rectify embarrassing gaffe with detained Griner

The US State Department has classified Griner as « wrongfully detained », meaning his case has been transferred to the Office of the President’s Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs.

However, Griner’s wife, Cherelle, questioned the Biden administration’s efforts to try to secure his release.

The spouse hit out at US officials after a blunder at the US Embassy in Moscow last week prevented a long-planned phone call between the pair from happening as originally planned.

A handcuffed Brittney Griner was briefly filmed at Khimki District Court just outside Moscow on Friday, seen with glasses and wearing a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt as she was led into the courtroom.

Ahead of the trial, his detention in Russia has been extended until December as the case unfolds, although a ruling is expected much sooner than that.


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