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WNBA star Brittney Griner remains trapped in a Moscow jail over trumped up charges seven months after being detained. Describing Griner’s state of mind in a recent interview with CBS News, her wife Cherelle said a recent phone call with Brittney was the “most disturbing” one she’s had since her detainment began at the end of February.
“I think I cried for about two, three days straight. It was the most disturbing phone call I’d ever experienced,” Cherelle told CBS News reporter Gayle King on Thursday after having just the second phone call with Brittney Griner since her detainment began.
“It’s just the most still, I think, moment I’ve just ever shared with my wife,” she added. “I didn’t have words.”
As the United States and the West continue to back Ukraine in its existential effort to prevail against Russia’s attack on its sovereignty, Cherelle’s latest media interview reveals signs that Brittney Griner is losing hope that the U.S. will secure her freedom from one of the most authoritarian regimes on the planet.
Brittney Griner feels left behind
For the last seven months, WNBA star and two-time gold medalist Brittney Griner has been stuck in the middle of a geopolitical battle between Russia and the West after airport security in Moscow discovered 0.9 grams of oil containing cannabis in her luggage. The finding and her detainment began just days before Russia launched a war of aggression at the end of February.
“She’s very afraid about being left and forgotten in Russia, or just completely used to the point of her detriment,” Cherelle Griner said.
Griner was convicted on Aug. 4 and sentenced to over nine years in a Russian penal colony after being charged with intent to distribute drugs. Her defense lawyers argued she was prescribed cannabis for pain, and Griner pled guilty to the charges, saying she had packed them by accident as she was rushing to make her flight.
Griner appealing conviction in Russia
The U.S. State Department has classified her as “wrongfully detained” as the Biden-Harris administration seeks to engage in a prisoner swap with Russia.
Elizabeth Rood, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, called the ruling a “miscarriage of justice” while standing outside the courtroom following the Aug. 4 conviction.
“Secretary of State Blinken, President Biden’s national security team and the entire American government remain committed to bringing Miss Griner home safely to her family, friends and loved ones,” Rood said.
Meanwhile, political rallies and public efforts to call attention to Griner’s plight have all but died down, adding to the perception that Griner’s release isn’t a priority.
In a hearing scheduled for Oct. 25, Brittney Griner is appealing her conviction. Cherelle is worried she will be moved to a penal colony.
“My brain can’t even fathom it,” she told CBS News. While she appreciates a recent visit with Biden at the White House, Cherelle added that she believes Griner’s release will require Russian President Vladimir Putin changing his mindset.
“You could hear that she was not OK,” Cherelle Griner said.