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U.S. officials continue to press Russia for access to WNBA star Brittney Griner


Brittney Griner 42 of the Phoenix Mercury can be seen at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum game against Indiana Fever on September 6, 2021, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Michael Hickey. Getty Images| Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The State Department is still working to get access to WNBA star Brittney Griner after Russian officials arrested her on accusations of smuggling drugs into the country a month ago.

Griner was arrested days after the arrest of Russian President Vladimir PutinOrdaining an invasion in Ukraine triggered international backlash as well as a series of harsh sanctions. Professional athlete, 31, has been charged with smuggling oil. This charge can lead to up to 10 year imprisonment.

Jalina Porter was the principal deputy spokesperson for U.S. State Department. She told reporters Friday on a conference call that U.S. officials were “closely involved” in Griner’s matter and called for transparent and fair treatment of American citizens held in Russia. When reporters pressed, Porter refused to give more details.

Ned Price, spokesperson for the State Department told Andrea Mitchell that the Biden administration was “deeply worried” over Griner’s case.

We have asked repeatedly for consular access to detainees, but have been consistently denied. Price stated Russia must comply with its legal obligations. We should be able to offer consular services to U.S. citizens who are being held in Russia.”

We’ll continue to push for it, to continue making sure that Russia meets its international obligations. Price said that we will continue to push for her rights and do all we can to ensure they are protected.

An individual close to Griner’s situation told NBC News on Thursday that Griner was “OK” during her detention. She also confirmed that Griner had been meeting her Russian legal team several times per week.

According to the person, once Griner is convicted of a pre-trial investigation, Griner will be tried.

If the investigation has not been completed by May 19, a second hearing will be held to grant an extension. Griner has not requested to be placed under house arrest.