Blinken chats with wife of Brittney Griner as WNBA star’s imprisonment in Russia continues | CNN Politics

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to the wife of detained American Brittney Griner on Saturday as the WNBA star’s imprisonment in Russia continues.

According to a senior State Department official, the top US diplomat told Cherelle Griner that the release of his wife is a top priority for the department and has its full attention. Blinken said the State Department is working the case day and night, and Cherelle Griner shouldn’t hesitate to reach out if there’s something she isn’t getting.

On Friday, a Russian court extended Brittney Griner’s pretrial detention until at least June.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist, who played for a Russian basketball team for years during the WNBA offseason, was arrested in February. Russian authorities said she had cannabis oil in her luggage and charged her with smuggling large amounts of a narcotic substance – an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

A US State Department consular officer was able to speak with Brittney Griner on the sidelines of her hearing on Friday, and a State Department official said the State Department was “closely engaged in this matter and in contact frequent with Mrs. Griner’s legal team”. .”

However, on Monday, US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said Russia had denied the embassy permission to visit him for the third time in a month.

“This is unacceptable. We call on @mfa_russia to provide timely consular access consistent with Russia’s international and bilateral obligations,” Sullivan said in a statement. Tweeter displayed by the embassy.

During a briefing last week, spokesman Ned Price said the State Department was “working closely” on Griner’s case, as well as that of fellow wrongfully detained American Paul Whelan. Another American wrongfully detained in Russia, Trevor Reed, was released in a prisoner exchange in late April.

“Our general message for Americans detained in Russia is that we expect, consistent with the Vienna Convention, to have regular and consistent access to Americans detained, including Americans on remand,” Price said, adding “C It is certainly a message that we regularly press with “the Russian government and that we expect and insist on this regular access”.