Michael Crowley and
Updated:March 6, 2022
-New York Times
WASHINGTON — Russia said on Saturday that it had detained an American basketball player — later identified as Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner — on drug charges, entangling a U.S. citizen’s fate in the dangerous confrontation between Russia and the West over Ukraine.
The Russian Federal Customs Service said its officials had detained the player after finding vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage at the Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow, and it released a video of a traveler going through airport security who appeared to be Griner.
The Customs Service did not release the player’s name, but the Russian news agency Tass, citing a law enforcement source, identified the player as Griner, a seven-time W.N.B.A. All-Star center for the Mercury.
In a statement, Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, did not dispute reports of her client’s detention. “We are 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 W.N.B.A. and N.B.A.,” she said.
Griner’s detention comes at the most dangerous moment in U.S.-Russia relations since the Cuban missile crisis, as the Biden administration leads dozens of nations in imposing crushing sanctions on Russia’s economy and its political elites. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Saturday that the sanctions were “akin to a declaration of war” against his country.
Also on Saturday, the State Department, which for weeks had warned Americans against traveling to Russia, released an updated advisory urging U.S. citizens to leave the country immediately, citing the invasion in Ukraine, the “potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials” and the limited ability of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to assist American citizens in the country.