American basketball star Brittney Griner has pleaded guilty to drug charges in a Russian court but has denied intentionally breaking the law.
The Olympic gold medalist was arrested at an airport near Moscow in February when cannabis oil vape cartridges were allegedly found in her luggage.
“I was in a hurry to pack my bags and the cartridges accidentally ended up in my bag,” she told the Khimki court.
His trial began last week on charges that could carry up to 10 years in prison.
Griner’s wife previously urged President Joe Biden to do “whatever it takes” to secure his release. Biden told Cherelle Griner he was working on getting her out as soon as possible.
The 31-year-old basketball star, accused of drug possession and smuggling, had already sent the president a letter saying she was “terrified of being here forever.”
Russian government officials have warned the United States not to “make any noise on the matter in public”. “The hype and the work of the public, with all the love for this genre among modern politicians, are only disrupting the process at the moment,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
“I’d like to plead guilty, Your Honor. But there was no intention. I didn’t want to break the law, “Brittney Griner told the court in English. Handcuffed and dressed in a red shirt and red pants, he said he wanted to testify later and needed time to prepare, then suspended for a week.
Griner is one of the most successful players in the women’s professional league in the United States, with the WNBA Phoenix Mercury team. She won WNBA and Euroleague titles, as well as two Olympic gold medals. She had traveled to Russia in the offseason to play club basketball and has played for EuroLeague team UMMC Ekaterinburg since 2014.
Cannabis oil is illegal in Russia, but his high-profile arrest at Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow came a week before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
US-Russian relations are in a bad state and it took the Biden administration several months to make their case a priority. A spokeswoman for the United States National Security Council said on Thursday that she had been wrongfully detained by Russia under “intolerable circumstances”. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that US Embassy officials attended the hearing on Thursday and delivered a letter from President Biden to Griner: “We won’t move until Brittney, Paul Whelan, and all the other Americans wrongfully detained. they will be reunited with their loved ones. ”
Whelan is serving a 16-year prison sentence on espionage charges rejected as nonsense by his family.
Russia has denied that the player’s detention is linked to icy diplomatic relations with the United States, but US Congressman John Garamendi warned last month that the war could make matters worse. “We don’t want Mrs. Griner to become a pawn in the political struggle that is currently waging all over the world.”
It has been speculated that even if Brittney Griner ends up in prison, Russia may be willing to trade her or Paul Whelan for a high-profile Russian inmate in a US prison, such as arms dealer Viktor Bout. Bout, also known as the “Death Merchant”, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being caught in a covert US operation in Thailand.
Cherelle Griner previously told a demonstration organized by the Phoenix Mercury team about her wife: “I am frustrated that it has been 140 days since my wife was able to speak to me, our family, and our friends. . I am frustrated that my wife is not getting justice. “